Former Freedom Selectman Questions Town’s Actions on Totem Pole Park

To the Editor:

In the summer of 1987, the Totem Pole Campground consisting of 457 lots on 90 acres was sold from Arthur Bolduc to Cerasamo Lumber and Development Corp. of Vermont. The Cerasamo company’s intent was to condominiumize the property, creating 456 separate lots for private ownership.

Nelson Piper, Cerasamo’s agent, and lawyers met throughout the fall of 1987 and into 1988 with the Freedom Selectmen. Eventually an agreement was hammered out, with all terms and conditions met, thus creating the agreement that is in force today. One of the defined limitations of this agreement reads as follows: “No person may occupy any campsite with the exception of campsite #46 (mobile home site) for the period commencing Nov. 1 and ending April 30 of each winter season. This provision shall not be altered, amended or rescinded by the Unit Owners Association without prior written consent of the Freedom Planning Board.”

Now, the very essence of the approval was based on this condition—also, lawyers representing the association stated, “Nothing at this campground is changing except ownership.” On Nov. 15, 1988, the agreement was recorded.

The years following this approval until 1996, my last year as selectman—at which time my knowledge of the situation stops—the Totem Pole Association met with the selectmen in 1991 and again in 1995 to extend their camping season to full year. Both times, they were denied.

In the subsequent years, there were rumors indicating winter activity at this facility. Since the beginning of 2004, there has been an ongoing attempt to amend the original agreement. At the February meeting of this year, I asked for and received minutes from past meetings. The minutes from January (second page, last paragraph) read as follows: “Babb questioned about a Totem Pole newsletter that stated winter occupancy is ok but could get fined by the town. Mr Wood, lawyer for Totem Pole, read from a copy it stated that it is no longer against the rules to winter camp but owners may get in trouble with the town.”

These minutes and other reports that I have heard, and all indications, are that there is winter occupancy and has been for some time.

At the August 19 planning board meeting, the hall was packed. The townspeople were passionate that Totem Pole’s request for winter camping be denied. Yes, the hall was full (more present than usually attend town meeting), yet the board could not be dissuaded. The present board voted yes to accept Totem Pole’s request for winter camping. The will of the people was ignored—the very people who elected them to protect and enforce our subdivision regulations.

The situation at Totem Pole is in no way irreversible nor is the situation the fault of the present board. The situation has been accruing since the final denial in 1995. Now the town needs to support all its boards or change them by vote. And for their part, the boards need to enforce the laws in place put there by past boards to protect the integrity of Freedom.

Richard Goff, Freedom

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