9-15-20 Saco River Family Camping

The pool at Saco River Camping Area is pictured Tuesday. (JAMIE GEMMITI PHOTO)

CONWAY — The Zoning Board tonight will consider variance requests from the owners of Saco River Camping Area, who are planning improvements to the property, and from the Bank of New Hampshire to put up more and larger signs than the sign ordinance allows at its branch behind what will be the new Conway Town Hall in Conway Village.

At the ZBA’s Aug. 19 session, project engineer Josh McAllister of HEB Engineers of North Conway, representing Adventure and Entertainment Properties LLC, owners of the Saco River Camping Area, said the project had received approvals in 2014 and 2018 but that minor modifications are being planned that require four special exceptions and four variances.

Following McAllister’s presentation, the board unanimously voted 4-0 — Chair John Colbath and board members Phyllis Sherman, Steve Steiner and Luigi Bartolomeo — that a variance be granted to allow for a concrete pavilion, pool, bathroom and multi-purpose building (all ADA compliant), and associated concrete walkways within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District.

McAllister said previous zoning approvals for the project was for 89 campsites, the installation of gravel drives, water, sewer and other utilities and roadways necessary to access those campsites, as well as getting a variance granted for a bathhouse facility that was 1,920 square feet, plus an additional 14,286 square feet of walkway, pavilion and pool concrete area.

He said as part of that approval, the owners also agreed to remove the existing pool and items associated with it.

He said after that zoning approval was completed, the company went forward with site-plan review, built the 89 campsites, built the maintenance building and all of the activities, driveways and utilities associated with the approvals granted with the exception of the bean-shaped pool and the bathhouse; those are the only portion of the construction that has ZBA approval that has not been completed.

McAllister said the campground is a commercial campground located within the Highway Commercial District at at 1550 White Mountain Highway in North Conway and the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District, adding that with the exception of the driveway coming down from Route 16, the property is entirely located within the floodplain.

The campground has 235 total campsites, consisting of 196  RV sites, 12 tent sites and 27 multi-use sites.  (EDITOR'S NOTE: This total was revised and corrected Sept. 18 from the printed published amount in Wednesday's paper).

“The goal here is to gain a modification of the approval (for those structures) we had earlier albeit we have to apply for variances again,” McAllister explained. “This bean-shaped pool and the bathhouse are the only portions associated with the project that are not yet completed. This is more of a modification of the layout and the architecture.”

He received a variance for a modification of a plan that originally allowed an observation deck and interior stairway for the proposed bathhouse pool building. He also obtained a variance to change the shape of a planned bean-shaped pool to a rectangular pool which would be “2 square feet less” than the original proposal.

He explained that the top of the stairs and the exit is out of the floodplain conservation overlay district, but the stairs themselves extend down into the floodplain conservation overlay district; however, they land on the concrete walkways that were originally approved. McAllister stated it would not create any additional impervious area as it would sit on top of the concrete previously approved.

He added that the other modification is the second story porch which is a viewing area over the pool; this is above the floodplain conservation overlay district in elevation, but has posts that come down and sit on the pavilion below in a location that concrete was already proposed.

For tonight’s ZBA meeting, Adventure and Entertainment Properties LLC seeks special exceptions to allow the installation of:

• A paved drive and utilities within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District to access the raised portion of the property.

• Paved parking areas within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District.

• Signage along the paved drive and ADA parking spaces within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District.

• A playground, one tennis court, one basketball court and the associated features for each within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District.

It also seeks a variance to allow light poles to illuminate the driveway, parking, pool and patio areas within the Floodplain Conservation Overlay District.

In a follow-up phone interview this week, McAllister said, “We are looking to get special exceptions and some variances that are necessary for those improvements that are proposed for down the road, with a store and possibly food service and some athletic facilities.”

Keith Wolters, managing partner for Adventure and Entertainment Properties LLC of Salem, on Tuesday said his company purchased the 44-acre campground in 2013.

Looking ahead, he said his company plans to continue to upgrade the expansive venue, including making the changes to make it more ADA-compliant.

“North Conway and Mount Washington Valley offer a fantastic array of experiences for guests, and we want to make sure we offer facilities that are first-rate for them,” said Wolters, who said that camping has evolved over the years and they endeavor to meet those evolving needs, especially with ADA facilities. “Our goal is to be the area’s most preferred campground for families by creating an environment that is a really enjoyable camping experience.”

He added, “We have not yet completely detailed all of our plans out and we will be seeking input form our guests to best meet their needs.”

The bank’s first variance request concerns a request to replace the existing wall sign with a larger wall sign that exceeds the maximum permitted sign message area at the main entrance at 29 Main St. The second concerns a request to allow an additional wall sign over the main entrance. The third is to allow an additional wall sign over the drive-through canopy.

Other items on tonight’s agenda include a request for a special exception by Paul and Sharon Pacenka to allow an additional residential unit for a total of three-units at 29 Pollard St., Conway; and a request by William Hounsell for the board to consider an equitable waiver of dimensional requirement to allow the encroachment of one corner of the existing roof soffit of the accessory dwelling unit by approximately 1.9 feet into the 25-foot front setback at 112 and 120 Thompson Road, North Conway.

Attendees should use the public parking lot next to the Conway Village Fire Department behind the New Level Church. ADA parking is located behind the fire station. For more information, go to conwaynh.org/zba or call (603) 447-3811, Ext. 4.

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