Plans for the Sippewissett Campground cleared the Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday last week, March 21.
The developers plan to bring a new style of camping to Falmouth, with 98 Airstream rentals and 10 canvas tents. Each Airstream will have two beds, a bathroom, and a living space. The tents will each offer a queen-sized bed.
Existing structures on the site are slated to be removed, and plans show a 7,900-square-foot clubhouse in the middle of the site. The clubhouse layout shows a foyer, a small convenience shop, a meeting area, and restrooms with showers for the tent guests. Plans also show a parking area with a permeable surface to keep the cars separate from the campsites.
The operator, AutoCamp, runs three other campsites; they are located in Santa Barbara, Sonoma, and Yosemite. The Sippewissett campground will be their first location on Cape Cod.
Members of the zoning board noted multiple improvements to the campground, including a reduction in the total number of campsites, from 122 to 108. The new operators will also offer Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant campsites. Abandoning cesspools and adding an innovative alternative septic system will be an improvement to the site, said Terrence Hurrie, chairman of the zoning board of appeals.
Eliza Cox, an attorney representing the project, said that the project already had approvals from the board of health and the planning board.
Onsite management was the only remaining question for the appeals board.
According to the management plan dated March 18, 24-hour onsite staff will be available, except when there is “very low occupancy.” When occupancy is low, the front desk will be staffed only from 6 AM to 10 PM. “Very low” occupancy is 30 percent or less, explained Brad Guidi from Blue Flag Development at the hearing.
The developers based the occupancy threshold on AutoCamp’s other locations, Ms. Cox explained. Russian River, a campsite in Sonoma, has never had a 24-hour attendant. The site operates 35 Airstreams, said Mr. Guidi.
“If there are five Airstreams rented or ten, it seems like it doesn’t make much sense to have a 24-hour attendant,” said Mr. Guidi.
When a 24-hour attendant is not onsite at the Sippewissett Campground, guests and neighbors will have access to a “phone tree,” said Mr. Guidi. When someone dials the number listed at the help desk, the phone will call three numbers simultaneously—the general manager and two other local contacts, Mr. Guidi explained. The general manager will be required to live within a 10-mile radius, said Mr. Guidi.
Ms. Cox said that the applicant would be amenable to revisions in the management plan if complaints are lodged against the site.
Members of the zoning board agreed that the management plan should be reviewed one year from the start of operation to decide if changes are necessary.
Robert Dugan, a member of the board, suggested seeing a draft of the decision before approving it. Ms. Cox said the developers could not wait until the next available zoning board hearing on April 18 for a decision. Blue Flag Development has a purchase and sale agreement with the Tessier Nominee Family Trust, the former owners of the campground.
The four members of the zoning board present approved a draft of the decision sight unseen, provided that they review and agree with it once it is formally drafted. Mr. Hurrie will sign off on the decision after the review.