DAVEY – In the face of mounting opposition, the developers of a RV park proposed near Davey have withdrawn their applications.
In an email dated Jan. 22, Dave, Jolene and Chris Queen submitted a letter via their attorney, Kent Seacrest, stating they were withdrawing their applications for a text amendment and special permit.
The email came one day after the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners decided to delay voting on both applications.
The Queens had requested special permit 19051 to build a campground on a 45-acre parcel of land on the southwest corner of Highway 77 and Davey Road. The name of the proposed RV park was Lincoln Capital Campground.
The family had also requested text amendment 19009 to amend Lancaster County zoning regulations by adding conditions for campgrounds.
Dave and Jolene Queen of Lincoln have operated Camp A Way at I-80 and Highway 34 in Lincoln for about 25 years. The campground is located on land owned by the City of Lincoln. The city is planning to use the land, so they have notified the Queens that the campground must relocate by 2025.
As a result, the Queens began looking at other areas in Lancaster County to relocate the business. They entered into an agreement to purchase land near Davey from Dirt Mile 77 to build the campground, which they said would be “an independent and family-oriented” RV park and campground.
A public information meeting was held in Davey last October. About 50 people attended to hear initial plans for the 240-site campground. The proposal also included allowing up to 35 percent of the sites, or 84 lots, to be designated long-term where campers could stay up to 180 days.
The matter came before the Lancaster County Planning Commission in December. After a six-hour meeting, the planning commission recommended approval of the special permit.
An opposition group called Citizens for Protection of Rural Life (CPR Life) formed to appeal the decision, citing numerous concerns. They said the campground would create the “fourth largest city in Lancaster County” that would exist without the benefit of city services. They also mentioned issues with water, increased traffic and a negative effect on the environment,
During a public hearing at the Jan. 21 meeting, the Queens and their attorney presented the text amendment which provided conditions for campgrounds located in land zoned for agriculture. Seacrest said the county allowed campgrounds in ag zoned areas, but conditions had not been set previously.
The conditions included a maximum of 150 campsites, which is lower than the 240 originally proposed by the Queens. The proposed conditions also decreased the amount of campsites that would be permitted for long-term stays and created two different lengths of time for long-term campers.
Other conditions included paved public access roads, prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages and installing screening or fencing.
Chris and Dave Queen presented information to the commissioners regarding the increased tax revenue the campground would produce for the county, as well as the names of hundreds of people who signed an online petition in their favor.
Fourteen people testified and offered exhibits in opposition to the text amendment, including attorney Mark Fahleson of the Lincoln law firm Remboldt Ludtke.
Fahleson, who said he grew up two miles from the proposed campground, represents CPR Life.
Fahleson said the text amendment was flawed because members of CPR Life were not allowed to take part in drafting the policy. He asked that it be denied and that the county board create a task force to study the issue.
“The question is not whether a text amendment makes it ‘viable’ for a developer,” he told the board. “It questions whether it promotes the health, safety and welfare of the county.”
A public hearing on the special permit followed. This time, 26 people testified against the Queens, including Fahleson. The attorney said CPR Life is strongly opposed to the campground proposal because it is located within the ag district, it does not conform with the county’s comprehensive plan and it jeopardizes the quantity and quality of water in the area. He also said the development would put a strain on fire and emergency services, create traffic safety issues, degrade the tax base and take away from the planned 1,000-site campground at Lancaster Event Center.
Both sides of the issue presented pages and pages of testimony to the county board, including letters, emails, maps, tables, charts and graphs. There were even photos of happy campers at Camp A Way and families living peacefully in the country, far from the bustle of a campground.
The exhibits also included an online petition signed by people in favor of the campground and two petitions in opposition – one online and one with signatures done in person.
In the comments on the online petition, former County Commissioner Bob Workman said the proposed campground is located in an area known for its water problems.
“There are just a few places in Lancaster County where finding sustainable water can be difficult,” he wrote. “This is one of those areas.”
In the end, the opposition was just too much for the Queens. In their letter to the county board, the developers said, after making concessions and offering solutions, they decided to withdraw the applications.
“We have determined that the text amendment would be too restrictive for us to operate a quality and profitable campground,” they wrote.
The Queens said their inspiration for locating the campground near Davey was simple.
“We want to make it clear that our motivation for building a campground in this fine county was to give back to the community and its visitors who gave us an opportunity 25 years ago,” they wrote.
The developers also noted CPR Life’s passionate opposition.
“Our hats are off to them,” they wrote.
CPR Life representative Becky Keep said the withdrawal was good news for area residents, but the matter is not settled, as issues like groundwater shortages and quality of water, population density, traffic safety and emergency response time will come up once more if another campground is proposed in a different part of the county.
“This issue will arise again as the developer looks for other land near Lincoln,” she said.
Keep reiterated the call for a task force to study the possible issues a campground in an agricultural district can develop. She said it is to protect both the landowners and the developers.
The request to withdraw the text amendment was on Tuesday’s county board agenda, however, the agenda also included an item to set a voting session for the text amendment on Feb. 25.
Due to press deadlines, the News did not know how the county board voted on these items before this issue of the newspaper was printed.
Keep said members of CPR Life planned to attend the Jan. 28 meeting to continue work on the campground ordinances in ag zoning.