Ossipee—May 12, 2016—Plans to expand the Westward Shores Campground & Marina have been before the Ossipee zoning and planning boards since the beginning of the year. The complex applications before the town and the state are seeking to double the number of campsites from 258 to 522. Nestled into a 308 acre flood plain along the shores of the lake and the Bearcamp River, over a third of those acres are wetlands and deemed by the state to be the “Highest Ranked Habitat in NH.”
Currently the site plan review is before the Ossipee planning board and is being presented by George Ferdette and Dan Flores from SFC Engineering Partnership on behalf of the campground owners, Northgate Resorts based in Michigan. After an initial presentation on April 5, SFC requested a continuance until the May 17 planning board meeting.
While the application has been in hiatus, several questionable issues have come to light that are being investigated. Purportedly, several organizations that SFC said they had been in contact with and had support from with regards to their ZBA special exception, have denied such contact and will be demanding a retraction from SFC, a correction to the minutes, and possibly a revoking of the granted special exception.
At the first ZBA meeting in February, SFC was requested to communicate with the Ossipee Lake Alliance (OLA) to discuss impacts and carrying capacity on the lake. The minutes of the March 8 ZBA meetings record: “George (Ferdette) refer to a letter by Bob Reynolds (OLA board member) within the packet provided to ZB…George noted that Mr. Reynolds got to meet with the new owners and in the letter talks of the character, reviewed the plan and endorses the plan….the letter of recommendation was on letterhead paper. So the (board) would have to assume this letter is a representation of the Alliance and not Mr Reynold’s personally.”
The OLA has responded as follows: “Ossipee Lake Alliance has never formally reviewed or assessed the Westward Shores expansion plan, and we were never asked to do so by town officials or the campground’s agents. We have not expressed an opinion about its merits, and we have never authorized anyone to speak about the plan on our behalf. A letter allegedly written by Bob Reynolds evaluating and endorsing the development on behalf of the Alliance was apparently presented to Ossipee officials by the campground’s agents. Mr. Reynolds is on the Alliance’s Board of Directors, but he never discussed such a letter with us and he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the organization. We did not know such a letter existed until we were contacted by the Independent.”
The same ZBA minutes report that Ferdette informed the board that “Chris Martin, NH Audubon Society visited the area on February 27, 2016 in reference to an eagle nest. Chris spoke with Dan Flores and stated there is one nest in the area but the location of the project will have no impact on the nest.” When contacted, Martin responded that to the best of his knowledge he had never met Dan Flores, nor had he spoken to or emailed him, or made those statements.
Green Mountain Conservation Group is also looking into possible misrepresentations quoted in the minutes and has written a letter to the ZBA that states:
“We would like to make it known and recorded in the minutes of your next ZBA meeting on May 10, 2016 that GMCG did not meet with the engineers or anyone else from SFC Engineering as mentioned in the ZBA minutes nor have we worked with SFC Engineering on how to protect the environmentally sensitive areas around the site.
“The proposed expansion of Westward Shores Lakeside Camping Resort is of concern to GMCG with regards to water quality due to the size of the considered expansion and the location of the proposal on the Bearcamp River, Ossipee Lake and within an exemplary wetland and marsh area known for high value wildlife habitat.
“We further would like you to note that on May 4, 2016, GMCG spoke with Daniel Flores at SFC Engineering Firm to alert him of the error in the presentation by Mr. Ferdette at the March 8, 2016 Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing. We have asked Mr. Flores, on behalf of his firm, to issue an apology to both GMCG and the Ossipee ZBA and to note that they had not met with GMCG prior to this hearing. They have cited information from GMCG’s Natural Resource Guide Book, which is on the GMCG website, but this does not mean that they have met or are partnering with us.”
SFC has also been advised in a recent letter from NH DES that it failed to demonstrate that any of the recommendations made by NH Fish and Game Department and the Westward Shores Loon Preservation Committee concerning the protection of bald headed eagles and loons, have been incorporated into its development plans. DES has requested that SFC provide documentation that addresses the concerns of both of these parties.
While town officials, Northgate Resorts and SFC Engineering have not had the opportunity to respond to these contentions at the time of going to press, the information on hand seems to detract from the level of trust in which the information supplied by the developers can be regarded. More vigilance is required moving forward.
SFC has asked for a continuance to present their case until the May 17 Planning Board meeting, which will take place at 7 p.m. in the Freight House located at 1 Moultonville Road, Center Road. The meeting is open to the public. Copies of past planning board and ZBA meeting minutes are online at the town’s website ossipee.org or can be obtained from the secretary, Laura Nash, by calling 651-1154.