ARLINGTON >> The owner of Camping on the Battenkill has turned down a FEMA grant that would have aided with reconstruction after Tropical Storm Irene.
Lesley Nase, who owns the campground along with her brother, Peter Pratt, said in a letter to the Select Board, "When an asset turns into a liability, it's time to say, 'Enough.' In January 2016 I received a letter from the Arlington Board of Selectmen that Camping on the Battenkill had been awarded a FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant. I was stunned. Five years after Tropical Storm Irene hit the campground, we were getting money to help rebuild. At the last select board meeting, Camping on the Battenkill was assured that the Town of Arlington wanted to work with the campground, that an agreement would be forthcoming, and the past two weeks I have not received a draft or heard from the town. Nine months into a time-sensitive grant, the Town of Arlington hasn't moved. Nine months in which the first phase of the grant work could have been done. Nine months the campground has been waiting to move forward on work that's been sitting untouched for five years."
"This grant work has become a liability," she continued, "Buyers see not the improvements that will be made, but the red tape of FEMA, the unwillingness of the town, and the cost of the grant, that would, at this point, come out of their pocket. Camping on the Battenkill is declining the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant, due to the Town of Arlington Select Board's inability to put forth an agreement in a timely manner for the grant to begin."
"The more we got into it, the more we felt we needed to talk about it as a board, to make sure that it had everything that we wanted before the lawyer put his final stamp on it," said board chairman Keith Squires at an Oct. 3 meeting, when Nase delivered her letter.
When Squires asked Nase if that was her final decision, she said that she has a potential buyer that has been waiting for the board to finalize the grant agreement. "I wanted to give them some idea of what that meant," she said, "But you didn't even call me and say, 'Hey, we're working on something." She said the board had only emailed her the draft agreement earlier that evening, which didn't give her time to look it over.
"It's been dragged out too long," she said.
"I understand your position to a point," said Squires, "The first five years that you're talking about, that was not here. That was somewhere else... I'll freely admit that it took some time to put the whole thing together, but I believe the board had concerns that needed to be worked on and worked out. We finally got through that, and we're at the point to do something, and it's too late."
According to minutes of the Arlington Select Board, the board originally applied for the grant in 2013. The amount requested was $150,260, with the local share being $37,565. The local share was to be paid entirely by Camping on the Battenkill.
Earlier this year, the owners of Camping on the Battenkill created campingonbattenkillforsale.com, which includes a detailed description of the campground's amenities. Their asking price was $1,202,700.
"I think it's hard to be trying to sell it and do this at the same time," said board member Cynthia Browning, "because you're putting on obligation on the next owner. I think it would be different if that wasn't a factor."
Contact Derek Carson at 802-447-7567, ext. 122.