Freedom — March 23, 2006 — Selectmen have sent a letter to Ossipee Lake Marina owner Kevin Price asking him to correct alleged zoning violations, including storing too many boats on the property.
After receiving many letters and comments from residents of Freedom over the summer, the selectmen chose to address issues surrounding Ossipee Lake Marina as a separate agenda item at their Monday meeting.
Chairman Les Babb said that he was told by David Smith, executive director of the Ossipee Lake Alliance that Ossipee Lake Marina was allegedly in violation of its special exception agreement made with the Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment regarding three key issues — the number of boats stored on the property, the use of Alvino Road, and the use of Lot 42.
Price, who was present at the meeting, said after the meeting he did not believe he was in violation of boat storage limits. He said he thought the 23 boats was the limit of how many rental boats as opposed to the total number of boats could be stored on the property.
Babb said at the outset of the discussion that Smith had told him his goal was to shut down the marina, making Smith a “hostile complainant” to Babb. At the meeting, Babb said that he would not cater to that but rather would work for the best interests of the town.
Further, he said that the board had chosen to contact the town attorney Peter Malia with the complaints and alleged violations and read Malia’s response to the complaints.
Allegations against the marina, owned by Kevin Price since 1997, said that there were more than 100 boats being stored on the marina’s property, and that the ZBA ruling allows only 23 boats on site at any time.
Babb said that based on a count this winter by zoning officer Ned Hatfield, there were 104 boats on the premises.
Malia’s letter explained that the marina is allowed to have 23 boats in storage in the winter.
“In accordance with Town Counsel’s response, please be advised that you may store no more than 23 boats outside during the winter season, regardless of whether they are Marina-owned or not.”
According to Babb, however, Tuesday was the first day of spring, so the storage restriction is a moot point this year. He said later that Price has 30 days to correct the situation under New Hampshire law.
Some in attendance said the original ZBA decision did not say anything about a season, that only 23 boats are allowed to be in storage year round.
Babb said he was acting on what the attorney said, that the boat storage limits were based on the winter season. One man countered by saying winter ends when the boats can go in the water.
Babb said that the decision was the intent of previous boards of selectmen that winter was defined as winter, and that was the time frame in which the restriction was to be maintained.
Price explained that when he first went to the ZBA to get the special exception, the flavor of the request centered around winter storage, so it would not necessarily come up as language in the decision.
Babb said that with regard to the use of Alvino Road by vehicles other than emergency vehicles the board would ask Price to restrict the use of that road to emergency vehicles only.
And the third issue, that of the use of Lot 42, was also irrelevant because all the lots have been merged into one lot.
Fay Melendy, who was representing the Ossipee Lake Alliance, said she has written the board regarding the boat storage issue along with other non-conforming uses on Lot 42, to which she never received a response. She said that even though the lots have been merged “doesn’t mean [Lot 42] can be used for general marina use. If boats are moored on the shoreline, it’s a violation.” Based on a ZBA decision, Lot 42 was supposed to be used for bathroom facilities and parking, she said in an interview Tuesday.
Many of these complaints have been expressed in the Ossipee Lake Alliance news release, published March 2 on the Internet at www.ossipeelake.org. The site is maintained by David Smith, who was not present at the meeting Monday night.
Babb said he had spoken briefly with Smith and another alliance member about the Alliance’s concerns about the marina and had requested a meeting with the group to make up a list of all the groups’ concerns. He said the group never set that meeting date up.
At one point during the meeting, Babb tried to move onto the next agenda item, but was met with strong resistance, with people having more questions and saying they thought this was a time for them to voice their concerns about the marina.
Chuck DePew asked what the board was going to do next, given it now knows about the violations. Babb said the board would now send the letter to Price and wait for a response.
He and selectman Jim Breslin told people that if they have more concerns that are different from those dealt with on Monday that they should write their comments down and submit them to the board of selectmen by April 24. He said then the board would review the comments, whether they are positive or negative, and would meet again in the Freedom Town Hall the following week, April 1 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the written comments.
Babb also defended the appointment of Donna Cupka to the Board of Selectmen. Cupka was appointed by both selectmen, not just by himself, as Smith claimed on OLA website on March 2.
Cupka has had to recuse herself from these discussions about the marina because her husband works at the marina.
“She wasn’t even our first choice,” he continued. “But she’s worked out well. She’s not afraid to work.”
He told those at the meeting that he and Breslin agreed to wait for the seat to be elected at town meeting, but he said he has been battling skin cancer and felt it was important to have a third person around in case he could not fulfill his role as selectman at some point. After asking Cupka a few times, she finally agreed, Babb said.
“That leaves the two of us,” he said. “If we have differing opinions, that would leave us deadlocked. We have chosen to ask Malia for an interpretation.”
The board will also submit all other letters and comments to Malia for his interpretation.