Freedom – May 1, 2009 – A State Superior Court judge has reversed the Freedom Zoning Board of Adjustment’s approval of increased boat storage at Ossipee Lake Marina. In a five-page order this week, Judge Steven M. Houran ruled that increased storage is an impermissible expansion of a non-conforming use under Freedom’s zoning ordinance.
In January 2007 the Zoning Board authorized marina owner Kevin Price to keep an unlimited number of boats and trailers on the property. In doing so, it overturned a 1997 Zoning Board ruling that set a limit of 225 boats indoors and 10% additional outdoors as a condition for boat storage at the marina, which is a grandfathered business in the town’s residential district.
The Board’s decision to abandon the limits prompted a public rebuke by members of the 1997 Zoning Board, including former vice-chairman Don Bossi, who said it would attract a lawsuit because it was “in total disregard” of a 2003 Superior Court ruling that upheld the limits.
Bossi also accused the Board of making its decision “without any thought about fire, vehicle access or neighborhood economic and environmental impact,” which he said were issues his Board considered when it set the limits.
Other critics complained about the ongoing expense to taxpayers of marina litigation stemming from years of zoning and environmental violations. They noted in particular that taxpayers would be paying for the town counsel, Peter Malia, to argue against the same limits he defended in the same courtroom just a few years before.
Judge Houran’s ruling this week is the second Superior Court defeat for the Zoning Board in the current case. In November 2007 Judge Edward Fitzgerald overturned the Board when he ruled the marina’s application to expand boat storage was “substantially the same” as what the ZBA had already turned down.
A Supreme Court judge subsequently found an error in Fitzgerald’s ruling and remanded the case to Superior Court for a re-trial, which took place this past February. The current ruling against the Zoning Board stems from the February re-trial.
The decision whether to appeal this latest ruling rests solely with Freedom’s Board of Selectmen because, in an unusual aspect to the case, marina owner Price never requested intervener status in the matter. That leaves the cost of the case, and decisions on appeals, in the hands of town officials.
A history of legal issues at Ossipee Lake Marina can be found by clicking here.