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February 19, 2022 - 8:00am

Large campground project tests, teaches all involved

A proposed campground in Pavilion not only meant a lot of questions, research, legwork, time and expense, but it also proved to be a major learning event for applicant Jesse Coots and the town planning board.

During this week's planning board meeting, Pavilion Town Supervisor Rob LaPoint thanked the board for performing due diligence on a project that contained “the greatest emotional hits of everything that was confusing and frustrating to come before a board.”

“You’ve been through it all at this point,” LaPoint said. “Anything else from here … will be much less intimidating.”

He assured the board he planned to do a forensic review of the entire process so that all involved can become more structurally and procedurally informed the next time around. 

“To be better as a town and functioning in a more efficient way,” he said. 

The project included a 110-acre parcel divided up into 27 acres for the Lokee-Hikee Campground on Perry Road. Coots had requested a special use permit for the project, which prompted many questions along the way, from locations of the main entrance and main driveway and whether there was an adequate water supply to expected traffic patterns and potential environmental impacts. He had expected a decision after a scheduled public hearing last year, but the planning board rendered that hearing null and void and asked that Coots complete another application. 

Navigating through the process has been trying for both Coots and planning board members. Planning Board Chairman Bill Fuest thanked the members of his planning board for seeing this project through to a final approval, and for the ample “input from all parties” involved. 

After the year-long process of nailing down necessary details and code requirements, applicant Coots was thankful to receive a thumbs up Wednesday. 

“This has been a long and expensive road and, sadly, a contested road that cost us our life savings. It’s gone now, but we’re moving forward. We are so excited to know our future. Our girls are happy and our future is now,” Coots said Thursday morning. “We look forward to all of the process from here out. We understand it will be hard work and long hours but we oddly look forward to doing it all together with ourselves and our community. It’s a really exciting movement forward for us and our small community.”

Coots’ efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed in his community. During a public hearing in January, a large portion of a packed town hall was a group of his supporters. Once word of the approval went online, his phone “blew up with phone calls and messages,” he said. He was overwhelmed with the 38 voicemail and 107 text messages sent to him with congratulations of a hard-won battle with neighbors contesting the project and to meet planning board requirements. 

“We’ve spent the last year of our lives trying to bring a nice thing to our community and, unfortunately, have been greeted with heartache,” Coots said. “Therefore, we had to fall back on law. We give huge props to the “county zoning” for making sure code is followed by town boards.”

He also handed out “props” for the community and its ongoing support, the town board and planning board members who “walked the line of what’s right.” He and his family are excited to move forward with the physical and financial work of the campground, while leaving the “subjective and opinionated work” behind them, he said. 

“This is the best I’ve felt in 12 months,” he said. “Really excited to move forward and do good things.”

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