‘Glamping’ resort developers look to curb traffic, sewer concerns in Charlemont

Civil engineer Jim Scalise presents to the Charlemont Planning Board a potential driveway running through Zoar Outdoor’s property, which he said could alleviate traffic concerns on Warfield Road for the proposed Hinata Mountainside Resort.

Civil engineer Jim Scalise presents to the Charlemont Planning Board a potential driveway running through Zoar Outdoor’s property, which he said could alleviate traffic concerns on Warfield Road for the proposed Hinata Mountainside Resort. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 04-19-2024 3:03 PM

CHARLEMONT — Deliberations on the conditions and potential approval of a proposed mountainside resort will come at the Planning Board’s next meeting, as the applicant laid out potential solutions to residents’ concerns about traffic on Thursday.

Jeff and Jennifer Neilsen are proposing to operate Hinata Mountainside Resort, which would encompass the revitalization of the Warfield House Inn and the construction of 32 “glamping” cabins. The couple hopes to buy the 473-acre property off Warfield Road from the Schaefer family, which owns Berkshire East Mountain Resort.

In opening Thursday’s meeting, which followed the first one on April 9, the Neilsens noted “glamping,” or glamorous camping, is a bit of a misnomer for what they’ve proposed, as there will not be camping on the site, but rather people staying in cabins. They propose a retreat where people can relax and make use of the wide variety of trails and natural resources in and around Charlemont.

“This couldn’t be further from [camping], it’s really more outdoor hospitality,” Jeff Neilsen said, with Jennifer adding, “We just want people to reconnect with the person they’re traveling with, with nature; and like Jeff said, the glamping thing is an unfortunate stereotype we’re hoping to move away from.”

Less than 10% of the 473-acre property, or 31 acres, would see any development. The 32 timber-frame cabins would each be about 500 square feet and feature a small deck.

At the project’s first meeting, concerns about traffic from residents of Warfield Road emerged as one of the top issues, along with how wastewater would be handled.

In response to traffic concerns, the Neilsens, civil engineer Jim Scalise and Jon Schaefer have proposed an alternative plan, which would encompass the creation of a roughly 5,200-foot driveway that runs through Zoar Outdoor’s property — Zoar is also owned by the Schaefer family — using a previously built road running up the mountain.

The driveway would have its address for GPS navigation and could ease traffic in the neighborhood on Warfield Road, according to Scalise.

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“We’re suggesting we build a supplemental driveway with an easement on Zoar to provide access to this property,” Scalise said, noting emergency vehicles would still use Warfield Road. “We will alleviate the vast majority of traffic to the neighborhood and try to maintain it. … I think it’s a win-win for the town and I’m hoping you’ll seriously consider it.”

Scalise, Schaefer and the Neilsens all noted the driveway is an expensive proposition, but they are willing to do it because they want to be a good partner to the town and their neighbors.

“It’s ideal for the room, but there’s nothing ideal about this. … It’s not something, if I can speak for the group, that we would have led with,” Schaefer said, emphasizing he is willing to make it work for the town.

“It’s a very expensive option, but it is a very desirable option,” Jeff Neilsen said. “We want to put this road in. … We look at is as a win-win for everybody, and it’s a beautiful ride in.”

The folks crammed into Town Hall’s meeting room showed support for the proposal, including attorney Hussain Hamdan, who said it is a “very much appreciated and impressive change.” Hamdan, who is representing resident Brad Smith, noted there are still concerns about the sewer system, which Scalise said are being worked out.

“This is a really, really great proposal that has been made,” Hamdan said. “This solves some of the big issues, so I encourage the board to go along with it, with the mindset of having this as a part of the plan.”

The applicants said they’d be willing to accept the construction of the driveway as part of the conditions of the special permit, but did request some leeway if there is another rainy summer and limited work can be done to expand the road for drivers.

“There’s a lot to do to improve this property. Trying to hold all of this at once feels like you’re trying to eat a pizza with one bite. … They’re starting a business from scratch and that’s really hard,” Scalise said. “A little time on some of the improvements would go a long way.”

As the discussion continued and the public hearing was closed, the Planning Board discussed a rough framework of conditions that would be applied to the special permit and tasked consultant Jeff Lacy with creating a draft permit and conditions.

Draft conditions discussed include building the aforementioned driveway and following darksky.org’s lighting recommendations to curb light pollution, among others.

Deliberations on the conditions and potential approval of Hinata Mountainside Resort will come before the Planning Board again on Thursday, May 9, at 6 p.m.

Hinata’s special permit application can be found at tinyurl.com/CharlemontResort and an updated packet, which features responses to Planning Board comments, can be found at bit.ly/4aIA7wK.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.