Ossipee – June 8, 2009 – Last week’s news that Westward Shores Marina and Campground plans to condominiumize its campsites was overshadowed this weekend by a notice in the Boston Globe saying the 227-acre facility will be sold at a foreclosure auction next month.
The notice, by James R. St. Jean Auctioneers of Manchester, states the property contains 144 boat slips and 278 campsites and has an assessed value of $6.2 million. It set the auction date for Friday, July 10 at 11 a.m. at 110 Nichols Rd. in Ossipee.
But Charlie Smith, principal owner of the business, says the auction “is not going to happen.”
Speaking by phone, Smith said he and his partners were caught by surprise because the foreclosure sale notice was not supposed to be published until the end of this week.
He said the issue between the campground and its lender is “already resolved,” and campers who have paid for the season “should not be worried” about the property being foreclosed.
Smith, who has owned the business since 1999, said the foreclosure threat is tied to the banking crisis. He said the property’s main lender sold the mortgage to another bank which then merged with a third. The merged bank sold the campground’s mortgage to investors in Miami who triggered a provision in the contract to accelerate payments.
“That’s how it started,” he said, “but it’s all being resolved.”
A message asking for comment was left with the New Hampshire attorney handling the foreclosure but was not returned.
Smith began informing returning campers of his plan to sell the campsites as condo units in early May. He said the push for the conversion came from long-time campers who had improved their campsites and wanted the security of owning the land underneath
An information letter on the proposal set “introductory price levels” at $59,500 for a wooded lot, ranging up to $178,500 for a waterfront lot. To “lock in the discounted price,” campers were asked to sign a purchase intent agreement by June 1 and make a $500 deposit.
Smith said 28 to 30 campers signed up, but the checks were returned and a May 23 information meeting was canceled after he decided to slow down the process. A May 21 email to campers said the slow down was because legal documents were not ready and the lender financing the sale had gotten “cold feet.”
Reaction to the condo proposal on Ossipee Lake Alliance’s website ranged from skeptical to critical. A poster named “Joe” said the conversion was management’s idea, not the campers’, adding “The campers are not happy about this at all, they are actually outraged!”
Another poster, “Rachael E,” wrote that she stopped staying at the campground last year because it had “steadily gone downhill under the current owners,” adding “it is no secret that the place is about ready to go belly up and this is a mad dash to get cash into the owners hands.”
Other posters complained about poor maintenance, limited activities and high prices in the camp store. Smith said he was aware of the postings and acknowledged that not everyone would welcome the condo conversion.
Last week, the Ossipee Planning Board approved the condo plan, but State regulatory hurdles remain if the foreclosure is resolved.
The campground’s initial application to DES was denied on April 28, but the agency said it would reconsider if the business provided additional information, including a Shoreland Permit. The State also requires a $150 conversion fee for each campsite, excluding the campground’s infrastructure – bathhouse, rest rooms, gate house, etc. – which is not part of the conversion.
A DES spokesman says the agency has not yet received any additional information on the project from the applicant.