Zoning hearing board OKs variance to convert Conneaut Lake Park to RV site

·3 min read

Dec. 23—HARMONSBURG — Summit Township Zoning Hearing Board has approved the owner of Conneaut Lake Park's request for a variance from a 70-foot land setback needed to convert the property into a family recreational vehicle park.

The board's variance approval, however, came with modifications and still requires a minimum setback of 35 feet in most areas. A setback is the distance in which building is prohibited.

At a public hearing Wednesday night in Harmonsburg, the Summit Township Zoning Hearing Board approved Keldon Holdings LLC's request for relief from a 70-foot setback requirement. The township's zoning code requires RV parks have a 70-foot setback from perimeter property lines and public roadways.

Keldon's revised preliminary master plan map presented Wednesday shows 109 RV sites added to the park's Camperland property, located west of Route 618, with as many as 383 new 2,000-square-foot RV cabin sites added east of Route 618 on the amusement park land.

The amusement park area east of Route 618 also would have a swimming pool, an indoor amusement center and the amusement park's carousel.

While the board's vote was 4-0 in granting the variance, it broke the approval into sections to match what had been proposed by Keldon. Board chairman Coletta Reitinger was absent from Wednesday's hearing.

The vote grants a variance from the 70-foot setback along the north property line of the park's Camperland property, as well as along the southwest property line of the Camperland property.

The vote grants a variance, but still requires a 35-foot setback for Camperland property lines located southwest of Reed Avenue and west of Route 618; park property east of Route 618; portions of Reed Avenue just east of Route 618; portions of park property along and west of Comstock Street.

The vote grants a variance with a 35-foot setback for areas west of upper Center Street, but with a 70-foot setback east of upper Center Street.

The vote grants a variance with a 35-foot setback for areas along lower Center Street.

Todd Joseph, owner of Keldon Holdings, declined comment to the Tribune following the hearing.

In testimony to the board at Wednesday's hearing, Joseph said the variance was needed if the plan was to move forward.

Without relief from the 70-foot setback, as much as 14 acres would be lost. In addition, there would be land loss to meet Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection requirements for storm water management of the site, Joseph said.

"We know we're going to lose a bunch of (RV) sites when it comes to the DEP and land development (stage)," Joseph said of the plan moving forward. "We know we're going to lose some because of storm water management in design. We know that."

Though Joseph testified he didn't have an accurate count on the number of RV sites needed for the project to break even financially, he estimated about 350 would be needed for the project to be viable.

"The whole object is to not do what everyone else has done the last 30 years," Joseph said referencing past bankruptcies of Conneaut Lake Park under previous ownerships. "(It's) to have a subsidy that pays for the amusement park."

At previous hearings before the Summit Township Zoning Hearing Board in September and October, Joseph said an RV park with amenities is needed to create residual income for the property.

Keldon bought the amusement park — including grounds, amusement rides, water park and other assets — from Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park for $1.2 million at a public proceeding in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in March 2021.

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