Freedom Opposes Expanding Westward Shores

Freedom—August 3, 2016—In a joint letter to Ossipee officials, the heads of Freedom’s Planning Board and Conservation Commission said their town opposes the proposed expansion of Westward Shores campground because it poses “significant risks” to the water quality of the lake and bays.

Citing a third-party assessment of the project by Jones & Beach Engineering, the letter says Freedom shares the concerns of the independent engineers that the entire campground sits on the 100-year flood plain and much of the site is within FEMA’s documented 10-year flood plain.

“This project presents significant risks from septic failure and storm water runoff,” the letter states. “Given the issues raised in the engineers’ report, we do not believe that this site can be brought into compliance with well, septic, hazardous waste, and other code requirements.”

Additionally, the letter calls the expansion proposal’s flooding evacuation plan “not sufficient” to protect water quality in the event of floating structures, ruptured sewer lines, and gas and other hazardous water floating downstream.

“A flood during the summer season when people are in residence with open windows, gas tanks on site, and active electric and sewer connections, could be catastrophic,” the town officials concluded.

A similar letter was sent by the Freedom officials to DES, asking that the agency allow the town to comment on any pending decisions regarding the campground.

The town’s letter echoes concerns about flooding risks posed by area residents and local groups, including Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group. Those concerns were heightened after the CEO of the campground’s parent company told the Conway Daily Sun that the flooding issue is “way overblown” and Ossipee Planning Board member Rick St. Jean accused conservation groups of “fear mongering.”

Westward Shores is seeking state and local approvals to double the number of RV campsites on its property by adding 246 new sites to 258 existing sites. It also wants to expand operations to an adjacent piece of residential property known as the Peninsula. The entire campground and marina parcel on the big lake is about 300 acres, with 45 acres to be placed in conservation.

In June, Ossipee Planning Board officials ruled the scope of the expansion has potential regional impact, mainly because of concerns about the aquifer and surface water. Citing NH RSA: 36:55, the town granted abutter status to the towns of Freedom and Effingham, as well as the Lakes Region Planning Commission, and asked those three entities for comments.

Independent Engineering Report
But Ossipee officials went one step further. After recurring complaints by local residents and environmental groups that the town was not receiving accurate information from the project’s owner, Michigan-based Northgate Resorts, and its engineering consultant, SFC Engineering, the Planning Board commissioned an independent third-party assessment of the proposal.

A six-page report by Jones & Beach Engineering of Stratham was submitted on July 19 and cited 46 items of concern, notably including the statement that “We share the concern expressed by the Planning Board and the public that the entire Campground is located in the 100-year FEMA flood zone.” The report also noted that state law requires an archeological study of the site.

Discussion of the report by the Ossipee Planning Board was scheduled for July 19th but was postposed to August 2 to give officials and the public an opportunity to review the findings. On August 2 the discussion was again postponed, to the next scheduled meeting on August 16.

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