Fire Chief’s Input Crucial to Marina Decision

Freedom — December 13, 2006 — Freedom Zoning Board continued its review of Ossipee Lake Marina’s proposed boat storage expansion to January, claiming that Fire Chief Gene Doe’s input is crucial to the decision.

Principal marina owner Kevin Price applied for unlimited winter boat storage on part of his property, which would be delineated by a fence.

Some opponents of the application argue that the request should be denied because of a storage limit set by the zoning board nine years ago.

In 1997, the zoning board gave Price permission to build two, 10,000-square-foot boat storage units. A condition of the board’s approval was a cap on the number of boats Price could store on the six-lot Freedom marina: 225 boats indoors, and 23 outdoors. Today, Price claims he misunderstood parts of that condition. The board’s intent was that the 23 outdoor boats would include those for sale, repair, storage or those Price owns privately. Price assumed that number only included boats he was storing over the winter for customers.

As a result, Price has stored over 100 boats outdoors in past winters; he has said that he is being “economically hung” by the limited number of boats he is currently able to store. His most recent application — the third review of which is scheduled for Jan. 22 — seeks to increase the 248-cap of stored boats to more than 300.

Price hasn’t settled on a number, however. He seeks to limit the number of winter-stored boats not by quantity, but by area. His plans show a stockade fence around the perimeter of almost 68,000 unsheltered square-feet.

After the second, Dec. 12 review of Price’s application, zoning board members decided to continue the hearing again. The threat of fire to the marina and its customers’ fiberglass boats was the cause of the most recent condition.

“How many of you have seen fiberglass burn? It burns fiercely,” said Don Bossi, a former zoning board member who helped establish the marina’s 1997 conditions. “It puts out a lot of smoke.

“I strongly recommend you really give some serious thought to the suggestion that this application should be approved,” he added.

Freedom resident Scott Cunningham urged the zoning board to take the issue of fire seriously.

“Seems to me, the elephant in the room here is the issue of putting out a fire in the fiberglass boats,” he said. “You see pictures in boating magazines of fire departments attempting to put out those sorts of fires, and it doesn’t work.

“I’m not sure why we’re so cavalier about this issue of fire,” he said. “It’s a very real issue.”

The marina is currently equipped with fire and burglar alarms, but no sprinkler system — not even in the two, 10,000 square-foot boat storage units. The town doesn’t require it, according to Price, who has reviewed his plans with Chief Doe.

“The cost of installing a sprinkler system would be prohibitive,” Price explained. Other opponents of the application believe that the marina’s request flies in the face of the conditions established in 1997.

“The marina has previously asked to expand the number of boats stored outdoors, and the board has previously turned those applications down,” said attorney Fay Melendy, speaking on behalf of abutters to the marina. “What you have here is an extraordinary expansion of storage by the marina.

“In less than 10 years, a non-conforming use that your ordinance says should not be increased by more than 20 percent, has gone from 31 to possibly 400 boats. Look very seriously at what you’re really being asked to do,” she finished.

The zoning board continued the public hearing to Jan. 22, at 7 p.m., hoping that Chief Doe would attend.

The continuation is inconvenient for Price, who was hoping to have the issue resolved before the winter season (previous boards defined the winter season for his marina as beginning on Dec. 21).

Price wondered if he would have to bring the number of onsite boats into compliance for the winter season if the board could, potentially, increase the number allowed after the season’s start.

“If I was to leave all the boats there until January, what would the fine be?” he asked. “If the expansion was granted in January, would any fine be waived?”

“That would be up to selectmen,” Town Attorney Peter Malia answered.

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