Changes to flood plain rules could impact seasonal campers in Hadley 

  • The Connecticut River FILE PHOTO

  • Property belonging to Mitch’s Marina on the Connecticut River in Hadley is a favorite haunt for campers. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Monday, February 01, 2021

HADLEY — Permanent structures within the Connecticut River floodway are already prohibited by the town, but amending the town’s flood overlay district bylaw is raising concerns that trailers and recreational vehicles that line the waterfront during the summer could pushed out.

As the Planning Board continued discussions this week about bringing rules related to the floodway and flood plain into compliance with the National Flood Insurance Program, members expressed worry about whether campers would continue to be allowed with a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board member Joseph Zgrodnik said amending the bylaw at Town Meeting this spring may hinge on if town officials get buy-in from those who use the campsites, along with the property owners renting them and allowing their use.

“They have some legitimate reasons to be concerned,” Zgrodnik said, noting that the amendments being discussed don’t allow for grandfathering of existing campsites.

Michael Sarsynski told his colleagues he is concerned that if restrictions are too tight, they might end up displacing people. He said people make their home in campers set up at Mitch’s Marina and other places in the warm weather months, with no worry any campers would end up in the river.

“There’s not a safety issue there,” Sarsynski said.

But under the draft model river protection bylaw, needed to bring Hadley into compliance with Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations for flood plains, each of the recreational vehicles would need to get special permits at a minimum.

If the changes are not adopted, the town risks losing access to federal flood insurance, federal relief funds in case of disaster, and even general home loans from federally insured banks.

Under current and future zoning, people would need to flood-proof their trailers when parked in an affected area and make sure it they are anchored and tied down, or make sure they can be quickly moved if the river is rising to flood stage. The town already limits use of the sites to 180 days for single-axle trailers no bigger than 400 square feet. The bylaw was last revised in 1996.

The talks by town planners come as the Conservation Commission tackles related concerns.

Conservation agent Janice Stone said there is a longstanding issue and a complicated one related to flood-prone areas, especially trying to coordinate across numerous town boards.

“Requiring a special permit is so burdensome that few are filing them,” Stone said.

The Conservation Commission is more focused on whether people are removing vegetation and cutting trees that could have an impact on the riverbank.

Last summer, Stone sent a one-page letter to all property owners with riverside frontage to let them know that the riverfront area is a 200-foot-wide corridor on each side of a perennial stream.

“Any activities within riverfront which alter vegetation, the ground, water flow or drainage must be permitted through the Conservation Commission & DEP first,” Stone wrote.

Planning Board Chairman James Maksimoski said the Hadley riverfront has long been attractive, with other communities prohibiting the activity or not having ideal sites for camping.

“Hadley has some tremendous amount of nice beaches over its 6- to 7-mile length of the river,” Maksimoski said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.