Campground Legal Case

Moody Center campground case dismissed in Franklin County Superior Court


Published: 5/25/2021 5:30:28 PM

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NORTHFIELD — More than one year after being filed, a legal suit against The Moody Center’s proposed “Idyllwood” campground has been dismissed in Franklin County Superior Court.

The Planning Board held several meetings and a public hearing to discuss the campground project between July and October 2019. According to presentations from The Moody Center, and architectural firm Clockwork Architecture, the campground would be built on a 76-acre Moody Center property along Pierson Road. It would consist of 12 cabins and 27 large furnished tents, with rates at approximately $125 a night.

In an 18-page summary of judgment for the case, the plaintiffs who live near and around the planned campground property contended the Planning Board exceeded its authority in granting the special permit for the campground in October 2019. They filed an appeal of the board’s decision in Franklin County Superior Court.

The co-defendants named in the case were The Moody Center and Christian Arnold of Clockwork Architecture, the company hired to design and build the campground. The town of Northfield and Planning Board were named as statutory defendants, according to Jeffrey Blake of KP Law, which serves as Northfield’s legal counsel.

“The co-defendants made an argument that the folks that filed the lawsuit didn’t have standing because they essentially were unable to give specific and articulable facts to support their standing,” Blake said. “The court agreed, and they dismissed the case.”

Blake said the plaintiffs need to prove they are harmed “differently in kind” than the average resident through “articulable facts.” According to the summary of judgment, the defendants, The Moody Center, submitted “overwhelming evidence” rebutting the plaintiffs’ presumption of standing.

“It’s a zoning case, and under the law there is such a thing called ‘standing,’” Blake explained. “Not everybody in town has standing to challenge an issue.”

He said residents have to be a direct abutter, or an abutter within 300 feet. However, this only gives a “presumption of standing.” During one of the public hearings, the Planning Board was presented a petition opposing the project, signed by 43 abutters. A number of abutters are named as plaintiffs in the summary of judgment document, which lists points raised against the campground’s approval.

The plaintiffs have 30 days from the Superior Court’s May 10 verdict to appeal the summary of judgment decision.

When reached Monday, Moody Center Vice President and Chief Operating Officer James Spencer said The Moody Center does not wish to comment on the verdict until the 30-day period for an appeal has passed.

Northfield Planning Board Chair Stephen Seredynski said he was informed of the decision last week by town counsel at KP Law that the case had been dismissed.

“We were just kind of like bystanders in (the court case),” Seredynski said of the Planning Board’s role. “The Planning Board had already made our decision to approve the campground with a host of specific conditions.”

Blake noted Judge Michael Callan quoted from the depositions of some of the plaintiffs, having taken arguments about a month and a half ago. Plaintiffs expressed concerns regarding the impact of traffic and noise in the area, diminution in property values, environmental impacts, safety concerns and aesthetic complaints. Generally speaking, the summary of judgment states, “views and other aesthetics do not suffice to confer standing.”

The summary of judgment also states “the plaintiffs themselves, under oath, use words like ‘conjecture,’ ‘guess’ and ‘unknown’ when describing their concerns for traffic and parking” while the defendants provided “detailed affidavits of experts quantifying traffic” to state resulting “change in traffic will be small or negligible.” Additionally, the summary cites the Planning Board’s special permit conditions for screening provisions and quiet hours to mitigate both noise and light.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at or 413-930-4579.