Ossipee Planning Board Determines Westward Shores Has Regional Impact

The following is reprinted from the Carroll County Independent

Ossipee–June 16, 2016–The planning board here has voted to delay consideration of the Westward Shores Campground expansion until July to give the Effingham and Freedom conservation commissions and boards of selectmen the opportunity to weigh in on the project.

Calling it “a good neighborly thing to do…and the law” Ossipee Planning Board Vice-Chairman Robert Gillette spoke in favor of recognizing those two towns, as well as the Lakes Region Planning Commission, as abutters to the proposed expansion. The board agreed that the Westward Shores expansion project will next be on the planning board agenda at their July 5 meeting.

The law that allows the planning board to consider the concerns of neighboring towns is NH RSA 36:55 “Review of Developments of Regional Impact” and defines it as any proposal that could reasonably be expected to impact on a neighboring municipality. The specific reasons for impact include size or number of dwelling units, proximity to border, transportation networks, emissions (light, sound, noise), proximity to aquifers or surface waters, or shared facilities that might be impacted such as schools or solid waste disposal facilities.

It is the potential aquifer and/surface water reason that pushed board members to include neighboring towns in the discussion. Both towns will be formally notified and allowed time to comment on the project.

Comments On the Proposal
There was lengthy discussion, however, about the Campground’s proposal to expand the park from 258 current campsites to 528, with conservationists and Ossipee taxpayers both weighing in on the proposal at the June 7 planning board meeting.

Corey Lane, Water Quality Monitor Coordinator and manager of the Ossipee Watershed Management Plan for Green Mountain Conservation Group attended the meeting and made it clear that group does not support the project. “We do not support this project as our mission is water quality protection,” said Lane. What was missing, however, was anything in writing from the organization.

Planning Board Vice-Chairman Robert Gillette suggested that without something in writing, the comments are hearsay. He asked that representatives from GMCG and Westward Shores meet, “work out your differences and concerns,” and if there is no resolution “tell us.” Lane said, at this point, “there really is not much room for negotiation.” Lane went on later to say that increased development on the lake could have a negative economic impact if water quality is affected.

“Most of our water quality on all of our lakes in the entire state of New Hampshire are the existing homes that have the existing sewer systems that are not up to today’s standards. When these developers come in their systems are up to a better standard than 99% of the people who are now owning property on our water sources. Yes, I agree that it could be a problem but I think the biggest problem is already existing on our lakes, not necessarily brought to us by some development that is done correctly in accordance with federal, state, and local requirements,” said Riley.

“We need to see line of reasoning, the evidence…a generic concern about development equals lower water quality doesn’t help,” Gillette told Lane.

The expansion project has a team of representatives including George Ferdette and Dan Flores from SFC Engineering Partnership on behalf of the campground owners, Northgate Resorts based in Michigan. The owners have legal representation from Attorney Peter Malia from the law firm Hastings Malia of Fryeburg, Maine.

A significant portion of the meeting’s beginning June 7 was spent on damage control. Attorney Malia defended his clients against what he called misrepresentations in a May 12 Carroll County Independent article and in a blog post on the Ossipee Lake Alliance website.

“Allegations and misrepresentation in [a] local newspaper [were] disturbing and negatively impacted our collective reputations so we felt the need to address those allegations…I appear before a lot of local boards and so do these guys and our reputations are very important. We would never intentionally lie about a meeting that didn’t happen or a conversation that didn’t take place in an effort to gain approval. That would just be stupid. Even if we did get the approval, our clients are going to need to come back before you in the future. I’m sure there will be additional visits back to the planning board and ZBA. We’re working hard to be as accurate as we can in relaying information to you. We feel that we have been accurate. We will certainly try to be more precise in the words that we use. But we would never intentionally misrepresent any meeting or conversation that took place.”

Since the last time the project appeared before an Ossipee board, much work has been done and permissions received, explained Flores. The project has received three permits from State of New Hampshire including alteration of terrain, shoreland protection, and approval for the location of three wells on the property. He suggested the necessary wetlands permit is imminent as well. Part of the wetlands permit process is negotiating a 34-acre easement on the property for “environmental general wildlife habitat.”

The project received a zoning board variance from the 20-foot width roadway requirement to allow 16-foot roadways with various road shoulder points to allow for passing vehicles. Ossipee Conservation Commission recommended a traffic study to be done of the Route 16/Nichols Road intersection. Flores explained that was completed and MDM Transportation Consultants found the intersection has “ample capacity to accommodate traffic increase due to the expansion”. Riley noted that he spoke to Ossipee Police Chief James Eldridge who said there have been “zero problems with this intersection.”

Two planning board members – Frank Riley and Dennis Legendre – suggested that as long as the applicant meets the state and federal requirements, the planning board has no cause to hold up the project any longer. Despite this, the board voted to contract with an “independent engineer” to review the application for the sole purpose of making sure “it meets the town’s zoning ordinance.” The cost of the independent review will be borne by the applicant.

Other than voting to allow Effingham, Freedom, and Lakes Region Planning Commission to weigh in and voting to hire the engineer, no other decisions regarding the application were made. The case will be heard again July 5.

“The question before us is not whether to do it but how to do it,” said Gillette.

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