The Recorder – Septic permit to limit Moody Center campground occupancy in Northfield

Published: 04/19/2023 17:06:17

Modified: 04/19/2023 17:06:06

NORTHFIELD — As plans progress for the Moody Center’s proposed campground on Pierson Road, approved permit allowing for the installation of a septic tank will limit occupancy to 78 overnight guests.

The septic system designs presented by Engineers Jon and Bill Sieruta were approved by the Board of Health during its March 29 meeting. The designs accommodate two people per unit for each of the 39 buildings – including 12 cabins and 27 “large furnished tents” – and 56 people in the campground’s conference center.

Officials from The Moody Center and Clockwork Architecture began sharing plans for the proposed campground during planning committee meetings between July and October 2019. However, the proposal proved controversial with local residents raising concerns about lighting, noise and traffic. Nearby residents claimed the planning board exceeded its powers by granting special permission for the campground in October 2019, and appealed the decision to Franklin County Superior Court. Judge Michael Callan eventually dismissed the case in May 2021.

The planning committee did not record the number of residents during deliberations in 2019, according to Health Committee member Ruth Potee. However, Health Committee Chair David Balk noted that the sewage system handles a limited amount of wastewater.

“I think by limiting the volume of septic use, you control occupancy,” Balk said. “I think we’re essentially saying how many people are based on septic design.”

The septic tanks are designed for year-round use to comply with state building codes, but the 76-acre campground along Pierson Road is planned for seasonal use. The health department has refrained from setting the seasonal timeframe because current septic tank plans can withstand winter conditions. Plans need to be reviewed if campground owners want to increase occupancy.

“If [the campground owners] “If you wanted to add more RVs or tents or something like that,” Balk explained, “they would have to go through a building inspection review and then come to us and review the septic design.”

Other provisions of the septic tank permit include written authorization for water access from the Grandin Water District, a contract with a septic tank contractor for maintenance and emergency services, and a determination by the Conservation Commission of applicability for stormwater runoff.

“We put everything on paper for everyone to see instead of coming in for an inspection and it’s all wrong,” noted Kathy Bridges, a health official.

Access to water is a fundamental step in septic design and a system cannot be installed without a confirmed water source. While water for the campground will come from the city, health board members found no details of water plans in previous documents or minutes of planning committee meetings.

“It’s potentially a bigger drain on the system than just the house,” said Alison Wahlstrom, board member for health. “If you have a crowded campground and everyone is flushing the toilet at the same time, that’s going to be a bigger usage [of water].”

For its part, the Conservation Commission, during its March 29 meeting, requested that the Moody Center file a Determination of Applicability Request or Letter of Intent to review the parking lot’s stormwater contamination and any wetland concerns. However, during their April 12 meeting, the commissioners stated that the plans for the campground, emailed by Clockwork Architecture’s lead architect Christian Arnold, were not a sufficient substitute for determining applicability. Once the relevant documentation is submitted, the commission will decide whether the campground requires wetland or stormwater management and what requirements they meet.

Both Arnold and Moody Center President James Spencer declined to comment over the phone on a new timeline for the project and a possible opening date. In June 2021, Spencer had said he hoped the campground would be open by the following summer, with rates hovering around $125 a night.

With the design and approval of the septic system complete, the Moody Center must now apply for a billable installation permit to cover septic construction inspections by the Department of Health.

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