This is an example of what lodging units in the Getaway House outpost will look like. Submitted | Mikayla Herrick Photography
This is an example of what lodging units in the Getaway House outpost will look like. Submitted | Mikayla Herrick Photography
VAN BUREN TWP. — A nationwide “outdoor hospitality company” wants to build a new, 45-unit campground in Brown County where people from all over the Midwest could come to enjoy the serene landscape, rejuvenate and find more balance in their lives.

Guests would be able to stay in tiny house-like units that are a cross between a cabin and an RV, each surrounded by forest so that guests can enjoy a quiet, private, short-term stay in nature.

The company developing it would pay 10 years of back taxes for the portion of the acreage that they’d take out of the classified forest designation. They’d also pay to pave and maintain the two county roads that guests and staff would use to get to the campground: portions of Poplar Grove and Green Acres roads.

What’s not to like?

Potential noise, increased wildfire risk, contamination concerns from septic drainage and trash, trespassers, changes in property value, increased traffic, and extra pressure on the all-volunteer fire department that serves the area were some of the reasons neighbors came up with.

Eight neighbors spoke against the plan at the June 23 BZA meeting, waiting for two hours to discuss it, as it was the last item on the agenda of a meeting that lasted four hours. One other couple sent in a letter of opposition.

No other audience members but the petitioners spoke in favor of it.

Stephen Maulden and Phil Gambrell pitched the request on behalf of Getaway House Inc. The group was seeking a special exception from the BZA to operate a travel trailer park. They didn’t need a zoning change, as travel trailer parks are allowed in the forest reserve (FR) zoning the land has, but they can only happen if the BZA grants a special exception.

Getaway House Inc. operates 15 “mobile micro-cabin RV campgrounds,” which they call “outposts,” across the country, many of them along the East Coast.

The company is under contract to purchase about 250 acres between Poplar Grove Road and Green Acres Road which is owned now by Land of Indiana, a logging company. The acreage used to belong to the White Tail Conservation Club until 2018, according to the information packet provided to the zoning board.

The land already has gravel logging roads on it, which the petitioners will improve to make the road through the campground. Lodging units will be built offsite and hauled in.

Each unit will have water, electricity and septic disposal. Two-person, four-person and accessible units will be built, each with a sleeping space, a walk-in shower, toilet, mini fridge, two-burner electric stovetop, kitchen sink, seating area and land-line phone. Units range in size from 142 to 176 square feet.

Each also will have an outdoor pad with Adirondack chairs, a picnic table, a U.S. Forest Service-approved fire ring and firewood provided.

No tents or guest RVs will be allowed at the campground; the only lodging will be these units. Bookings will have to be done in advance through the website with no walk-ins allowed, the company-provided paperwork says.

A residence for a full-time manager will be built, as well as an office and facilities for maintenance staff. These might all be in one building, the petitioners told the BZA.

Trails also will be built on the property to discourage guests from wandering, they said. Fencing will not be put up between the campground and adjoining land. All trails, roads and units will be set back at least 100 feet from the adjoining property lines to create a noise and visual barrier. No guns and no hunting will be allowed at the property.

Wastewater will be routed to a centralized treatment area, which Gambrell said would be twice the size they’d need just in case a problem happened and they’d have to use a backup.

The company also will need to get water and electric service installed on the property.

Part of the land is in a wildlife habitat area designated by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, but Gambrell said they’re working with the DNR on that and it wasn’t anticipated to be an impediment to their plans.

It’s estimated that the development will create two or three full-time jobs and about 15 part-time jobs in housekeeping. Guests also would pay sales tax and innkeepers tax, Maulden said.

He estimated that introductory pricing would be around $89-$99 per night with regular pricing ranging from $129-$299 per night.

Guest access will be from Green Acres and staff-only access will be from Poplar Grove.
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