Ossipee – April 5, 2009 – Acting on a request for emergency relief, Superior Court Judge James D. O’Neill has granted the Ossipee Bluffs Association a $675,000 lien to secure environmental violator Donald Lee’s Ossipee Lake property. The attachment was recorded on Monday March 30 at the Carroll County Registry of Deeds.
Bluffs Association attorney Jed Callen appealed to the court for the ruling after N.H. Associate Attorney General Richard Head signed an agreement with Lee to limit the State’s lien on his property to $50,000. The agreement also subordinated the lien to a new mortgage so that Lee could obtain a $150,000 bank equity loan.
The subordination would have put the State’s claims on the property behind the bank’s in the event of a default or a required liquidation of Lee’s assets.
Lee’s attorney, Finis Williams, told the State that Lee had arranged a mortgage with TD Banknorth, but the bank backed out after learning about the lien. He said Lee needed the money for lawyers, engineers and other expenses to comply with the 2006 court order to remediate the environmental damage he caused to the lake over an 18-year period.
In his filing for emergency relief, Bluffs attorney Callen pointed out that the State Attorney General’s office assured the court a year ago that the cost of the remediation, estimated at the trial to be $675,000, was “effectively secured” by the State’s lien on the property. According to the terms of Head’s March 18 agreement with Lee, however, the State’s lien on the property was reduced to $50,000.
Callen’s motion to the court indicated that the State’s agreement to subordinate its lien and allow Lee to mortgage the property would create “more than a substantial danger” that its value will be “reduced, consumed, concealed or removed from the State.”
Callan also said the Attorney General’s office approved Lee’s subordination request without notice to the Bluffs Association even though the lake group has had a motion pending in State Court for eight months asking for a lien on the property for its full value because of Lee’s failure to comply with the 2006 court order.
In October 2006 the court ordered Lee to “forthwith” present a plan to DES to remediate the damage he caused to the lake by illegally constructing and maintaining breakwaters at the mouth of the Lovell River starting in 1988. The court found that the Massachusetts resident’s breakwaters caused the deposition of a large and growing sand bar in the lake, substantially interfering with the Bluffs Association’s property rights.
After a year passed with no plan in place, the Bluffs group filed a motion for contempt which the court stayed, giving Lee 60 days to apply to DES to implement the “preferred alternative” remediation plan, one of a number of options environmental engineers presented in court as a way to remove thousands of tons of sediment from the lake.
Instead, Lee hired his own engineers and wrote a different plan that proposed removing a much smaller amount of sediment from the lake, claiming that the court-ordered plan would cause “irreparable harm” to the environment.
Last August the Bluffs Association filed a second motion for contempt and asked that it be granted a lien on Lee’s property for its full value. Lee was granted a continuance to January 2009, and a court scheduling conflict resulted in a second continuance to May 4, at which time the motion is scheduled to be heard.
The State also has a pending suit against Lee for remediation and civil penalties, which has been stayed by the court pending the outcome of the Bluffs Association’s motions for contempt.