Becket Glamping Proposal Facing Loud Oppposition

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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BECKET, Mass. — Residents of the County and Yokum Pond roads sent a clear message during the second night of a public hearing for the Dream Away Lodge glamping proposal: not in our neighborhood.

Last week, nearly a dozen residents spoke against Hit The Road LLC's special permit request to re-open the Dreamaway restaurant and establish a glamping facility at 1342 County Road.  

Concerns about traffic and environmental impacts were repeatedly voiced. Many gave rather emotional testimonies about the quiet, serene atmosphere of Becket that attracted them in the first place.

"Even after approximately 500 signatures against this glamping project, and almost the entire County Road and Yokum Pond neighborhood folks writing letters to why they don't feel the project is right for the neighborhood, no one seems to be listening," County Road resident Rosemarie Bongiovanni said, referencing a petition that is nearing 600 signatures.

"Especially the board members voted in by these same neighborhood folks, could their consideration be just about revenue? We hope not because we need to watch out for all the people in the neighborhood."

Owner of the Route 8 Pub Heather Anello said the proposal will bring revenue streams to small businesses like her own and that she knows only a handful of names out of the nearly 100 people in attendance.  

"My fear is that a small group of people who do not live here full time or have just moved here have been well, maybe against the glamp ground because of a campaign cause," Anello read from a statement that she sent to the board.

"I and my husband are people who visit glamp grounds often, typically the people that we meet that come to the glamp grounds are local people who thrive in the opportunity to be in a natural environment, these areas that we visit my, husband and I, are located next to state parks or state forests, the people that we've met at these campgrounds enjoy the forest and the local amenities and also respect them."

She later added that from her experience, she had not noticed an increased amount of traffic from the roads, that the project's estimate of using around 10,000 gallons of water per day is not a large amount, and that the opposers are not looking at the big picture.

"I cannot believe that I'm the only person that's being heard tonight in support of the glamp ground," Anello concluded. "The Dream Away Lodge could turn into anything and I think you guys should rethink what you're exactly doing here."

The storied Dream Away Lodge featured numerous folksingers and songwriters in its nearly 100-year history, including Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. It closed during the pandemic and Daniel Osman, its owner for the past quarter-century, recently put it up for sale. It includes the 200-year-old farmhouse, restaurant, music/event room, and grounds.

Hit The Road LLC is proposing to reopen the lodge and develop the surrounding parcel into the Dream Away Campground consisting of 100 camping units. The guest accommodations will include cabins and canvas-walled tents on platforms.

It is considered to be "glamping," a form of camping with accommodations and facilities more luxurious than those associated with traditional camping.

The site proposal also includes a guest lodge with a pool, a 155-car parking lot for campers, a guest relaxation area, and maintenance and operation structures.

Last month, the board held the first hearing for the project and nearly 150 attended, voicing similar concerns. The hearing will have its third session next month.

For the proposal, a traffic study was done on a Wednesday morning in November that measured an hourly average of 25 vehicle trips per hour in the morning peak and 41 per hour in the afternoon peak.

Residents say this was not an accurate or sufficient study.

Another County Road resident, Barbara Liftman, said the 400 people the proposed facility can accommodate will not stay on the property for their whole stay and will impact local traffic.

"Guests to this resort will make several trips in and out per day first to check-in and then to shop for provisions, they will go off to see the many sights of the Berkshires, they'll return to shower before they go back out to one of the area's many wonderful restaurants or to Tanglewood, Jacob's Pillow or local theater, no they will not all dine at the Dream Away as the application states because the Dream Away couldn't possibly fit them all, even if they turn the tables three times a night," she asserted.

"Also, if they're visiting for multiple nights, it's very unlikely they'll want to eat at the same restaurant multiple times, contrary to the words of the application, resort guests will be coming and going all day and evening long and almost each and every one of these trips in and out, unless they are going into Becket, they will have to navigate the hairpin turn in County Road and Yokum Pond Road which happens to be directly in front of my house."

Liftman also challenged the proposal's label as a glamping facility, speculating that there will be heat, linen service, and private bathrooms.

"This, by any stretch of the imagination is not camping," she said. "Words matter, this is a hotel or motel at best, but in reality, it's much more akin to a subdivision of 100 new dwellings for transients who are willing to pay upwards of $300 a night to stay there."

David Kong, also of County Road, shared similar sentiments but added that he is concerned about alcohol and cannabis-related accidents.

"It's a disaster, it’s an absolute disaster waiting to happen, it’s going to be hundreds of vehicles and people all day, all night long traveling this road at the pitch-black darkness coming up this road, and it's inevitable that there's going to be alcohol involved in any of these accidents or marijuana being smoked it’s a recipe for tragedy, tragedy that I don't think studies can really find right now the results of," He said.

"HTR, they claim it's a campground but if it's walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, it's a duck, it’s a resort, it’s a motel development."

Dennis Thomas, who describes himself as living a simple life in a cabin that abuts the property, said this proposal will change everything for him.

"This glamping facility is in my back yard," he said. "What is being proposed will irreversibly change where I live, life inside my house will be a whole new experience, this change will be permanent, walking on the road or bicycling will be very different, sleeping in my cabin will no longer offer peace and quiet."

Many attendees chose to defer comments until there is a new application from HTR for the project.  Shasta trailers were included in the original application but have been dropped from the plan because it is against the town's zoning bylaws.

Chair Robert Ronzio said an amended application has not been received and that the board is likely months away from making a decision.

The board extended the hearing to a third night on June 8.

"Looks like we're going to be listening to lots of testimony, unfortunately, we're hearing a lot of the same things, generally what they're hearing is such things as the traffic study that was done for this particular project and how many people feel that it needs to be redone at a better time during the year and we take into consideration a number of the factors that were brought up here tonight so that's probably going to be something that we'll have to discuss, you know, as we as we move forward with this," Ronzio said.

"And of course, the change in the application I mean, yeah, the application that was originally submitted did speak to the issue of having trailers and I guess the applicant didn't look at our bylaws or overlooked in our bylaws the fact that trailers are not allowed in the town of Becket."

Before the next hearing, HTR will have an opportunity to reply to the concerns raised during the public comment period that lasted nearly two hours.

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