Planners to weigh approval of KOA campground for Great Cacapon

by Kate Shunney

When the Morgan County Planning Commission holds their regular monthly meeting next Tuesday, May 23, their agenda will include a Public Hearing to consider the approval of a Commercial Improvement Location Permit for a KOA-branded RV campground in Great Cacapon.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Morgan County Commission meeting room in the county courthouse.

Developer Scenic LLC is seeking the final approval for a project that’s been in the works for years. The company submitted its plans to the Planning Commission in August. Several rounds of engineering review and state permitting have solidified the plans, which are now up for a final vote by county planners.

Scenic LLC has proposed building a 173-site RV park and campground at the base of Cacapon Mountain along Cacapon Road east of the bridge into Great Cacapon.

They plan to develop 48 acres of the former farm in the first phase of construction.

Aaron Bills purchased the old Noland farm in 2018.

The property is bounded on the north by the CSX railroad and on the west by the Cacapon River.

The campground’s location at the base of the famed Panorama Overlook and at the confluence of the Cacapon and Potomac Rivers has created opposition to the project.

There are concerns that the sewer services needed to accommodate waste from over 100 RV campers could negatively impact both rivers and overwhelm the Great Cacapon wastewater treatment plant, which discharges into the Cacapon River.

Bills and Scenic LLC have been working with the Warm Springs Public Service District (PSD), which operates the public sewer in Great Cacapon, to engineer a connection between the campground property and the sewer plant. That plant is located on the west side of the Cacapon River.

The sewer connection most likely will require horizontal drilling under the river, raising more concerns of environmental hazards during the drilling process.

Other opponents of the campground plans have focused on the visual aspect of a new campground, as seen from above.

View from the Panorama Overlook.

The Panorama Overlook affords one of the longest views of the Potomac River valley in the area, taking in four states. From that vantage point, the campground will fill in what has been an empty farm field for the better part of a century.

Traffic safety is another concern related to the KOA campground. Some worry that RV campers will create a hazard on the steep and windy descent from the top of Cacapon Mountain, or that lines of campers waiting to pull into the campground will impeded other drivers going west on Cacapon Road.

Bills said in discussions with the Division of Highways, engineers have proposed a deceleration lane that would let RVs slow down and get out of the main lane of Cacapon Road as they prepare to pull into the campground.

Campground plans include 60 back-in RV sites, 85 pull-through RV sites, 16 cabins, eight yurts and four tents.

They also include a central check-in office, maintenance building, swimming pool bathhouse facilities, mini-golf, multi-purpose sports court, playground areas, dog parks and several pavilions.

Planners will review if the development meets county commercial building permit rules and if Bills has secured the required state and federal permits for the project.

Groups who have organized to share their opposition to the KOA plans are expected to attend the May 23 hearing to voice their specific concerns.

Other business

Planners will also consider an application from Ashton Prime Properties for Final Plat approval of Windfall Acres, Phase I & II near Hedgesville.

Also on the agenda is an application to waive the minimum subdivision lot size requirement for five parcels of land in the 4000 block of Valley Road in Berkeley Springs.

Planners will also consider a Commercial Improvement Location Permit for the expansion of KO Storage Valley Road in the 10,000 block of Valley Road.