CALEDONIA — Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park’s proposed expansion has raised confusion and contention among some park neighbors.
Jellystone owners Theresa and Randy Isaacson and their daughter, Bridget Bender, under their company Bear Country Inc., have purchased land to the southeast of the current site at 8425 Highway 38, extending south to Seven Mile Road. They submitted plans to the Village of Caledonia to expand the park by adding more cabins, a swimming pond, a future trampoline park, a banquet hall, more walking trails and an entrance on Seven Mile Road.
To separate the campgrounds from the residences on Caddy Lane and Saratoga Drive, the owners proposed a berm, 8 feet high and 80 feet wide with vegetation on the top; or a wetland area between the campground and any bordering residences.
At the Caledonia Planning Commission meeting Monday, Bender presented the park’s expansion plans in a hearing over changing the new area’s zoning from residential to park. That would allow the owners to start on phase one of their three proposed phases of the expansion.
Phase one would include expansion of the campground’s water and sewer system before construction of more cabins in phase two.
The hearing lasted more than three hours, at which point the commission decided to approve the zoning change, with conditions.
There was a great deal of confusion and questions from the campground’s neighbors regarding the berm, a proposed fence, garbage collection and traffic patterns.
Jellystone held an informational meeting at the Caledonia Village Hall on Nov. 15 on the project. Heather Hankins, who lives on the 10,000 block of Seven Mile Road, said Monday she had been unable to attend that meeting and wanted to learn more about the project. She does know that she is opposed to the additional entrance on Seven Mile.
“If you’ve driven on Seven Mile there is a hill that, even my driveway is a blind driveway. There are no sides of the road for any accidents or any for people to move out of the way,” Hankins said. “If they opened up an entrance on Seven Mile, it would lead to more accidents in the area.”
Bender said the Seven Mile entrance would be supplementary, and the owners don’t intend on having the same amount of traffic moving along Seven Mile as they currently have on Highway 38.
Hankins countered that with additional people coming in on the weekends, the Seven Mile Road entrance will be used.
“If I see lines and people backed up and I know there’s another entrance, I’m going to go to it,” said Hankins.
Another Seven Mile Road resident, Katrina King, said she was concerned what the entrance and expansion would do to her home’s value and how much of the infrastructure cost is going to be shared by residents.
“I appreciate that it’s a shared cost, but for me, I don’t know that I want to pay the additional fees for the upgrade of what’s going to be a moneymaking business for somebody else,” King said.
Later in the meeting, Village Engineer Tony Bunkelman said Bear Country would be responsible for covering the cost of expanding drainage systems and for additional connections to sewer and water.
Quite a few of the neighbors publicly complained about noise coming from the campground and were concerned that the berm would not be an adequate buffer.
“What proof can you give the residents that these berms will provide noise reduction?” asked Saratoga Drive resident Dawn Fuerstenberg. “Eighty feet sounds wide, but if you sit out in your backyard in the middle of summer, you still hear the campgrounds.”
Bender said she believed the park has adequately addressed issues of noise and privacy, separating campers from the surrounding neighborhood.
“We don’t want our campers to feel like they’re in a neighborhood and vice-versa,” Bender said during her presentation to the commission.
Commission Vice President Jonathan Schattner was concerned that the family was applying for the whole area to be rezoned when the plans they submitted only included two-thirds of the grounds.
“I’m a big-picture kind of person,” said Schattner.
The rezoning was approved on the conditions that Bear Country present a traffic study, garbage disposal plan and details regarding the pond.