Freedom — January 15, 2007 — The proposed expansion of Ossipee Lake Marina has State officials and local environmental groups worried about the impact on milfoil, boat traffic and the Ossipee aquifer.
In letters to the Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), officials from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, Freedom Conservation Commission and Green Mountain Conservation Group have recommended that the town consider studies on the impact of the Marina’s growth.
The Marina, which is in a residential neighborhood on Broad Bay, has applied to the ZBA to keep an unlimited number of boats outdoors next to three indoor boat storage buildings. The three buildings were approved by a special exception in 1997, subject to a limit of 225 indoor boats and 10% additional boats outside the buildings. The application seeks a new special exception that would remove the limit on boats outside the buildings.
In a January 2 letter to the ZBA, DES Limnologist and Exotic Species Program Coordinator Amy Smagula said that State biologists have been following the proposed expansion plan because the Marina is the site of the lake’s first documented variable milfoil infestation.
“Because of the potential devastating effects to the environment, public health and economic values,” Smagula wrote, “it is extremely important to carefully…evaluate and manage the milfoil infested boat traffic lane as a result of increased activity.”
The DES official told town planners that “Those involved in the review process must have some knowledge of exotic aquatic plants and how they spread,” adding that “Extensive thought and planning will be necessary and a management plan will have to be developed to control milfoil growth within the boating channel to minimize infestations at other lake locations.”
Impact to the Aquifer
Green Mountain Conservation Group (GMCG), a regional organization focused on environmental issues in the Ossipee Watershed, asked Freedom officials to “strongly consider the potential impacts on the lake, aquifer and private wells” before ruling on the Marina’s special exception.
GMCG executive director Blair Folts told the ZBA that the Marina is located above New Hampshire’s largest stratified drift aquifer, a primary source of drinking water for the region, and is next to a State-designated Source Water Protection Area.
“Expanded operations at the Marina may increase the likelihood of spills and leaks and pose a potential threat to the lake and to groundwater due to the transmissivity of the soils,” Folts wrote, adding an additional concern that incremental boat traffic could “increase the pollutant load on the lake and disrupt wildlife.”
Folts noted that her organization has expressed such concerns before.
“GMCG first raised concerns about the expansion of Ossipee Lake Marina in 2002 when the ZBA and State Superior Court considered and denied a similar expansion proposal. We have the same concerns with the new proposal,” she said.
Zoning Questions Raised
Prior to the November 28 public meeting on the Marina’s plan, Freedom Conservation Commission (FCC) expressed concerns to the ZBA about the impact that unlimited boat storage could have to the character of the area, a reference to the zoning ordinance requirement that Special Exception uses must be shown to have no adverse impact.
A previous application for increased boat storage was denied by the ZBA in 2002 because it failed to meet the ‘no adverse impact’ requirement, among other reasons. The Marina sued the town but lost in 2003 when a Superior Court judge upheld the zoning officials.
The FCC also raised the issue of whether the new application conflicts with the limits that the ZBA set in 1997 when it approved boat storage as a Special Exception use on the property.
“The commission questions if the 1997 Special Exception approval was granted based on another request being satisfied,” the group’s October 17 meeting minutes state.
A third public meeting on the Marina’s application will be held on Tuesday night, January 23 at 7 p.m. in Freedom’s Town Hall.