Campground owners propose restaurant
SALISBURY — Owners of the Waterhouses Campground off West Shore Road in Salisbury are seeking town permission to open a 30-seat restaurant in their recently renovated marina on Lake Dunmore.
The proposal is one in a series of recent and ongoing improvements to a 170-acre property that the members of Dunmore Group LLC want to make more financially self-sustaining.
Dunmore Group representatives presented their plans to the Salisbury Development Review Board on March 16. The application calls for:
• A 30-seat restaurant that would serve “light fare,” which Dunmore Group LLC Manager Stuart Fraser described as being burgers, pizza, hot dogs, salads, sandwiches and some healthy food alternatives.
• Converting a small seasonal dwelling on the property to year-round.
• Installing a mound septic system to serve the new restaurant and year-round dwelling.
Fraser said the proposal follows Dunmore Group’s pattern of finding ways to help the property generate at least enough revenues to pay its own property taxes and operating costs, and perhaps a small profit to sink back into the enterprise. As a seasonal business in a competitive campground market, Waterhouses operates on a thin margin, he noted.
“We see the restaurant as a final step to get to a point where the property can fund itself,” Fraser said during a phone interview on Tuesday.
The foundation for Waterhouses Campground and Marina was laid in 1876 by Loyal Waterhouse, who established a marina and rowboat building operation across Lake Dunmore from Mt. Moosalamoo. The property includes 2.5 acres on the lake with a beach and marina, a 71-lot campground on more than 20 acres, and much of what is now referred to as “Sunset Hill.” There are also several buildings on the grounds, including a barn and main house that includes suites for rent.
Dunmore Group — formed by a handful of business associates who all previously attended nearby Camp Keewaydin — bought the property from the Reynolds family in 1999, according to Fraser. While the owners aren’t counting on making it a cash cow, they want the property to pay its own way. To that end, the owners have been making some investments in hopes of increasing the visibility and marketability of Waterhouses. The group recently renovated the marina.
“We had this great space and thought, ‘How do we capitalize on it?’” Fraser said.
That’s when they thought about a small restaurant. Plans call for the venture to be seasonal — at least at first. Fraser believes the increasing number of year-round lake residents could eventually justify keeping the eatery open into the fall and spring months.
“We have no illusion this will be the next Dog Team Tavern,” Fraser said, alluding to the popular restaurant that used to operate next to the New Haven River. That restaurant burned down several years ago.
If the venture takes off, Fraser said the Lake Dunmore restaurant could deliver take-out by boat and accommodate customers who come by boat.
“I think we will have a great allure,” he said.
Salisbury Zoning Administrator Mark Wilch said the restaurant appears to satisfy parking requirements. He said some neighbors weighed in on the application at the March 16 Development Review Board hearing. Many of the comments, Wilch said, centered on the proposed mound septic system and whether it could affect water quality on adjacent parcels.
“I think they were satisfied with the responses,” Wilch said.
Salisbury officials now have 40 days in which to issue a decision on the Waterhouses application. If it is a favorable response, Fraser said construction would probably occur this fall in order to avoid disrupting the coming summer recreation season.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].