Freedom — January 23, 2007 — Freedom Zoning Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether or not Ossipee Lake Marina can expand its storage of customers’ boats.
Principal marina owner Kevin Price’s application for unlimited winter boat storage on part of his property has already been reviewed by the board, twice. The last review was in December, when board members said they couldn’t make a decision without Freedom Fire Chief Gene Doe’s input, who was absent from that meeting.
Price’s application seeks to expand the marina’s storage capacity, an issue that was last broached in 1997. That year, the zoning board gave Price permission to build two, 10,000-square-foot boat storage units. The board capped the number of boats Price could store on the six-lot Freedom marina at 248: 225 boats indoors, and 23 outdoors.
Today, Price claims he is being “economically hung” by the storage restrictions. The board’s intent, in 1997, was that the 23 outdoor boats would include those for sale, those being stored for customers, or boats under repair.
Price said he assumed that number only included boats he was storing over the winter for customers, and that the cap is too restrictive if all of the other boats are taken into account.
Over the past two public hearings, a number of issues have been raised by neighbors of the marina, as well as seasonal Freedom residents.
Some question Price’s reluctance to give board members a definite number of boats he’d like to store on-site. In December, he said it would be “somewhere around 300.”
According to his application, however, storage would be limited to a fenced-off area, not by a predetermined number of boats.
A number of residents have expressed concern over the threat of fire to a densely packed marina.
“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, at the December hearing. “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 cautioned.
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.
Price has said the cost of installing a sprinkler system would be “prohibitive.” One abutter of the marina, Kathleen M. Guckert, has been represented by attorney Fay Melendy at both public hearings. At least twice, Melendy has questioned the legality of a storage expansion, if one were to be approved.
Just recently, she submitted an official “Memorandum in Opposition to Application for Special Exception” to the zoning board, on behalf of her client. It is, in essence, a history of the marina’s development, and a detailed argument against the proposed storage expansion.
The issue over the expansion of Ossipee Lake Marina’s boat storage is only the most recent in what seems to be an ongoing battle between some locals, summertime residents and the marina.
When Ossipee Realty Corporation bought the marina in 1997, it began to make changes to the marina’s layout and infrastructure. The new owners of the marina erected high-intensity lights on the marina property, and sought the town’s permission to erect two, 10,000-square-foot boat storage buildings on the property.
But after residents along the lake shore complained, the marina’s high-intensity lights were re-positioned so that the light shone away from the bay. And while permission to construct the two boat storage buildings was granted by the zoning board, it was conditional. No more than 225 boats, for example, could be stored in the buildings; no more than 23 additional boats or trailers could be stored outside.
The controversy intensified after Ossipee Realty Corp. purchased an abutting residential lot (Lot 42) in 1998. Over the next four years, neighbors complained that access roads and buildings were constructed in violation of state and local laws.
In 2002, the Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment refused to allow the marina to officially merge Lot 42 with the rest of the property, which would have increased the site’s boat storage capacity. Later, the board awarded retroactive approval for bathrooms (built in 2000) and parking lots (built in 1998) that had been built without prior approval, according to the Ossipee Lake Alliance.
The “after-the-fact” approval, challenged by citizens, was upheld in New Hampshire Superior Court in 2003. The court also upheld Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment’s refusal to allow the marina to build additional boat-storage buildings, after Ossipee Realty Corp. challenged that decision.
The third, and tentatively final, public hearing on the marina’s application will take place Tuesday at 7 p.m., at Freedom Town Hall.