Ossipee–May 19, 2016–Dan Flores from SFC Engineering came before the Ossipee ZBA at their May 10 meeting, representing the owners of Westward Shores Campground to present a variance for a 16-foot wide access road, where a minimum width of 20 feet is required. He opened his presentation asking for a correction to the minutes of the last meeting which he said were incorrect and had led to some misunderstanding. Flores said the minutes incorrectly implied there had been a meeting between SFC and Green Mountain Conservation Group. He said the minutes should have said that SFC has met or is attempting to meet model ordinances outlined in GMCG’s Natural Resource Policy Guide.
However, in a letter written after that meeting and signed by Flores on March 14, 2016 to the Ossipee Planning Board, he writes: “…we have worked with state agencies…as well as two private environmental protection groups, the Ossipee Lake Alliance, and the Green Mountain Conservation Group to develop the expansion in such a way as to protect the environmentally sensitive areas around the site.”
At present, the road width varies between 8 feet and 13 feet. It joins a piece of land known as “the peninsula” that was purchased from Bob Reynolds to the main campground area. Some demolition is planned to create room for 18 camps alongside an existing cottage. It is one of the more eco-sensitive areas on the site as it is the mouth to absorb any flood event.
All other roads on the property will conform to the 20 foot requirement, but this one has been requested at 16 feet say the developers,”to minimize wetlands impact.” In fact they may not have any choice other than to narrow the road, because 20 feet might see it in the water. Also a 20-foot road may present too much impervious surface to be permitted by the Shoreline Protection Act.
Although Chief Carl Huddleston of the West Ossipee Fire Department has said that he can live with a 16-foot road, questions are being asked on how accessible such a road would be in times of emergency, and whether it will withstand washing out from the predicable flooding events.
After Flores had made his presentation and before the board voted, parties in the audience asked whether they could present information that appears to contradict statements and claims SFC have made at past Planning and ZBA meetings. The board responded that it was not relevant to the variance application before them on that night.
However, such doubts on the table breed mistrust moving forward. It begged the question: If information has not been presented transparently and honestly, then how can the board best judge how to make decisions tonight? In fact, as another application was being considered that night it was found that the applicant had made unauthorized improvements their property. Two board members denied the application saying that if those improvements had not been done in good faith, then they have no confidence that the application before them has been made in good faith.
However Chairman Stanley Brothers overruled the questions and said the matter should be brought to the next ZBA meeting. Ski Kwiatkowski questioned whether the board should wait to hear back from DES on whether the impervious requirements are met. Bill Grover said no, that variances are granted all the time subject to conditions meeting state requirements. He said that state rules have to be followed and supersede anything the town may grant. Ralph Wurster added that the town ordinances are intended to make things safe, and that wetlands are a state oversight, and not the job of the board to monitor.
The board proceeded to vote and granted the variance.
Blair Folts, executive director of the Green Mountain Conservation Group left the board with two lengthy letters identifying statements and claims made by SFC that several sources suggest are untrue. These were reported in last week’s Carroll County Independent. She requested that the town look into these discrepancies and indeed take its time to consider all aspects of the application because of its size and impacts. On the grounds of these discrepancies, GMCG has also asked the ZBA to revoke its permission for the special exception granted on March 8 and to reopen the hearing.
One of the mysteries that was resolved that night related to a letter purportedly written by Bob Reynolds on Ossipee Lake Alliance letterhead, endorsing the campground expansion project. SFC had provided the letter to the ZBA as evidence of support from OLA. A copy of the letter surfaced at the ZBA meeting that night so it can be confirmed that Reynolds did write it, and it is on OLA letterhead. OLA has since emphatically denied the endorsement as reported last week, and is considering what to do for next steps.