Group pressing Planning Commission to revisit KOA permit frustrated by response

by Kate Shunney

A gathering of citizens at the June 25 Morgan County Planning Commission pressed members of the volunteer board to reconsider their vote last year approving a Commercial Improvement Location Permit for Scenic LLC to construct an RV campground facility in Great Cacapon below the Panorama Overlook and outside the village of Great Cacapon.

Owners of Scenic LLC have sought a KOA branding for the campground facility, which is proposed to have 173 sites on roughly 50 acres of the old Noland Farm along Cacapon Road.

The property, owned by Aaron Bills, is bounded on the north by the CSX railroad and on the west by the Cacapon River.

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.

The Morgan County Planning Commission approved the Commercial permit for the project on May 23, 2023 in a split 6-4 vote following a boisterous public hearing with an overflow crowd.

Last Tuesday, June 25, roughly 30 people opposed to the project attended the Morgan County Planning Commission regular meeting. Opponents had organized the meeting attendance with an eye toward forcing a re-vote on the permit. No visible construction has begun at the site.

Planning board member Marshall Younker told those gathered that the board had granted a five-minute slot on their agenda for a gentleman to speak on the project.

That man didn’t attend the meeting, but the board allowed Christina Vogt to speak in his place.

Vogt chastised the planning board for only allowing five minutes of discussion on the topic that had drawn so many people to the meeting.

“We should be able to talk more than five minutes,” she said.

Vogt said the planning board serves the constituents of Morgan County and has an obligation to respond to their concerns.

She accused planners of approving the commercial permit when they “didn’t do due diligence” in checking that all aspects of the permit application had been completed and permissions had been secured. The project involves highway entrance permits, erosion control plans, water source permitting, wastewater treatment permits and more.

“You owe the people of Great Cacapon a hydrogeologic study,” Vogt said, saying the operation of the campground would pull 7,000 gallons a month from the ground.

Vogt also accused planners of accepting a historical survey review of the property that did not consider the location of an Indian settlement in the area as historically significant.

She noted that people in Great Cacapon have concerns about RVs using Cacapon Road, about the safety of traffic over Cacapon Mountain, about the environmental impacts of a fully operating RV park and about the archaeological items that are believed to be on the property to be developed.

“All of these issues are still outstanding, and you haven’t done anything about it,” Vogt said.

“You did not do your due diligence. Somebody’s going to wind up in court,” said Vogt.

“You have sold the people of Great Cacapon out,” she said.

Some members of the audience interjected during the public comment period, calling for planning board members to resign. Board members are appointed by the County Commission and serve as volunteers.

In a few brief comments in response, planners said the project submission had met the county’s rules for commercial development and had secured the appropriate state and federal permits to proceed.

Younker noted that there had been ample discussion at the 2023 public hearing, and the developer’s commercial building permit is in effect for five years.