Freedom — March 18, 2006 — Responding to complaints by zoning officials and other members of the public, Freedom’s Board of Selectmen have put Ossipee Lake Marina on the agenda for discussion this Monday night, March 20th, at 7:30 PM. The meeting is open to the public.
Early this month, Ossipee Lake Alliance sent letters to more than three dozen past and present zoning officials and town officers asking them to intervene with the Selectmen over violations of 1997 and 2002 Zoning Board (ZBA) decisions that limit the Marina’s scope of operations. Alliance officials said they hoped the intervention would avoid a legal challenge to the town over the matter.
The Alliance has accused the Selectmen of undermining the Zoning Board’s authority by adding language to the ZBA rulings that does not exist, and by interpreting the rulings in ways that allow the violations to continue.
Minutes of the Selectmen’s meetings show that the Board circumvented the ZBA’s limit of 23 boats stored outdoors on the property by exempting 120 of the 143 boats found in a recent count by a town official. The Selectmen also overruled the ZBA’s denial of the Marina’s use of adjacent Alvino Road, and have declined to stop the Marina from using what is known as residential Lot 42 for boat storage and boat slips, neither of which is an approved use.
The Marina is managed by Freedom resident Tim Cupka, whose wife, Donna, is a Freedom Selectman. Meeting minutes show Cupka has recused herself from votes on her husband’s business practices, leaving Board Chairman Les Babb and Selectman James Breslin to craft the Board’s decisions in July and October of last year.
Alliance official David Smith said he welcomes the public meeting, but he criticized the Selectmen for refusing to change the date after being informed that no one from the Alliance’s Board of Directors could attend on the 20th. All of the Alliance’s Board members are non-resident property owners except for Howard Bouve. Bouve was a member of the ZBA at the time of the Marina decisions.
“We contacted the Selectmen in July, August, and December of last year and never heard a word from them. Their first contact with us was to send us a certified letter two weeks ago asking us to appear on the 20th, and their second contact was to send a letter saying they wouldn’t change the date of the meeting so that one of us could attend.”
Smith says the Alliance was formed in 2002, originally as Broad Bay Alliance, after lake residents spent four years unsuccessfully trying to convince town officials to enforce environmental and zoning violations at the Marina that included filling wetlands and constructing buildings without required permits and approvals.
“We went public with our concerns a last resort,” Smith says. “The town did nothing until we took our case to the newspapers,” he recalls.
After the violations were turned over to state and local officials in 2001, the ZBA held two contentious public hearings the following year and issued rulings that rejected any additional growth of the Marina while permitting it to use a parking lot and bathroom building it had illegally constructed on near-by residential property. The ZBA decisions were upheld by State Superior Court in 2003.
Setback to Relations
Smith says the lake organization has spent the past two years trying to establish a better relationship between town officials and the lake community by working closely on milfoil prevention and control. He says having to re-open the Marina case in public is a “huge distraction.”
“We’ve been through all of this before. These are the same issues that were debated publicly, ruled on by town officials, and defended by the Town Attorney in State Court. All the Selectmen had to do was enforce them.”