HARMONSBURG — Conneaut Lake Park has been granted a special exception to convert the amusement park property into a family recreational vehicle park, but not a variance on a 70-foot setback requirement for RV parks.

The Summit Township Zoning Hearing Board voted 5-0 Wednesday night to grant Keldon Holdings LLC, which owns Conneaut Lake Park, the special exception needed for the proposed family RV park.

The Conneaut Lake Park property is located in a B-1 business zone, which permits RV parks under Summit’s zoning code with township approval. RV parks are allowed within a B-1 business district by special exception granted by the zoning hearing board.

But, in a separate action, the board voted 5-0 to deny Keldon a variance from a 70-foot setback from perimeter property lines and public roadways that’s required for RV parks under Summit’s zoning code. A setback is the distance in which building is prohibited.

“No comment,” Todd Joseph, Keldon’s owner, responded when asked by the Tribune following Wednesday night’s hearing if he might modify his proposal and reapply for the variance from the 70-foot setback.

Joseph wants to convert the bulk of the amusement park’s land into an RV park, adding 460 RV sites, related facilities and recreational activity sites to the park. Joseph said an RV park with amenities is needed to create residual income for the property.

Keldon’s preliminary master plan map shows 109 RV sites added to the park’s Camperland property, located west of Route 618, with as many as 360 new 2,000-square-foot RV cabin sites added east of Route 618 on the amusement park land.

A swimming pool with both a kiddie pool and splash pad would be added, plus a miniature golf course and the amusement park’s fabled carousel would be east of Route 618.

Though the 70-foot setback variance was denied, Keldon can reapply, said Coletta Reitinger, chair of the Summit Township Zoning Hearing Board.

“The (preliminary) plan wasn’t defined enough that we could made a true decision on that,” Reitinger said of the reason for the variance denial.

During testimony before the board on the variance, Mark Galbo, a land surveyor for Keldon, said about 14 acres of land at the park would be needed to be dedicated for such things as storm water management, parking and public access. Keeping the 70-foot buffer around the property would mean another 11 acres lost.

Joseph testified keeping the 70-foot setback requirement means the potential loss of 90 RV sites — or about 25 percent of the of the 360 sites proposed, east of Route 618 on the amusement park land.

Joseph testified he was willing to modify the plan to keep the 70-foot setback requirement with adjacent property owners who wanted it.

Wednesday’s hearing held at Harmonsburg Presbyterian Church had a crowd of about 60.

A number of Conneaut Lake Park area property owners did testify about concerns over the potential for increased noise, campfire smoke and traffic in the area, as well as whether the park’s water utility system could handle the increased numbers.

However, the Zoning Hearing Board noted concerns on traffic, water system and other issues would be dealt with if Keldon submits a formal land development plan to the township.

Wednesday’s zoning hearing actually was the second on the matter, though a continuation of a Sept. 21 hearing at the neighboring Summit Township Building, which had an overflow crowd.

The Sept. 21 hearing was adjourned by the zoning hearing board without a ruling after inconsistencies were discovered within the township’s zoning ordinance. The issue was whether the zoning hearing board or the township’s board of supervisors had jurisdiction. Legal research of the matter fell under the zoning board’s jurisdiction.

Wednesday’s hearing was held at the church because of its larger capacity.

Keith Gushard can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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