Freedom Selectmen Ask Ossipee’s Planning Board to Reconsider Westward Shores Decision

Freedom—October 3, 2016—Freedom’s Board of Selectmen has asked Ossipee’s Planning Board to reconsider its conditional approval of the site plan application to double the capacity of Westward Shores Campground & Marina. In a letter to the Ossipee Planning Board, Freedom’s Selectmen said the town wants the opportunity to give testimony to the Planning Board as provided by its abutter status, which was granted to Freedom in June because the project has regional impact.

“Our concern about this project is the potential impact it may have on water quality,” the letter states. “We have this concern because the entire project is in the 100-year flood plain. As a downstream town, the impact from a flood could be significant.”

On September 20 the Ossipee Planning Board approved the expansion subject to the developer meeting all state requirements. During the meeting, Freedom Planning Board Chair Anne Cunningham asked the Ossipee board for more time to study a newly submitted independent technical review of the expansion by Jones & Beach, an engineering firm that has been evaluating the plan for the Ossipee board, and revised plans submitted that evening without an opportunity for public review.

The Ossipee Planning Board denied her request, refusing to hear anything more about broader community impact.

“I understand your concerns, but this is the Town of Ossipee,” said Planning Board member Dennis Legendre, as reported by the Carroll County Independent. “I was elected by the people of Ossipee. I’m supposed to look out for their interests. Their interest supersedes anything you might have to say.”

Recreation Vehicles vs. Manufactured Homes
In its three-page letter to Ossipee, Freedom’s Selectmen cited their concerns about a number of issues they believe the Planning Board has not resolved. One of those is whether the installations on the property are considered recreation vehicles or manufactured homes, which are treated differently in the town’s zoning ordinance.

“The applicant’s current business practice involves providing four season accommodations for those type of Recreational Vehicles most often referred to as ‘camping cabins’ or ‘park model RVs,’ which prior to arrival may satisfy the definition of Recreational Vehicle” provided in the zoning ordinance, the Freedom letter states.

The letter goes on to state that an inspection of the campground shows a significant percentage of the property consists of “semi-permanent” vehicles with attached decks, three-season rooms, and carports, which “hardly conform to the definition of Recreational Vehicles” as defined in the town’s zoning ordinance.

The Freedom board asks that the Ossipee board determine whether such installations more properly fit the definition of “manufactured homes.” If so, and because the entire campground is in a designated Special Flood Hazard Area, such installations would need to be elevated on a permanent foundation such that the lowest floor is at or above the Base Flood level, meaning the level at which the property would be flooded by three to four feet of water.

“As approved, the Site Development Plan does not specify required accommodations for elevated or permanent foundations, limitations on length of placement, continued road readiness; nor code compliant anchoring.”

Conversely, if the installations are deemed to be recreational vehicles rather than manufactured homes, the Freedom officials said other issues arise. Specifically, while FEMA allows recreational vehicles on the flood plain, FEMA guidelines and the Ossipee flood plain ordinance require that vehicles be on-site for fewer than 180 consecutive days annually; be fully licensed and ready for highway use; be attached to the site only by quick-disconnect type utilities and security devices; and have no permanently attached additions, such as decks.

In the approved site development plan, only “transient sites” would have quick-disconnect connections, and then only for septic connections, not electric and water connections, something the Freedom Selectmen asked the Ossipee board to address.

Peninsula Concerns
One of the most controversial aspects of the expansion plan is the establishment of 15 installations on a previously residential property known as the Peninsula. The developer wants the installations be “stationary,” which is to say year-round. That, according to Freedom officials, means they would be subject to the Ossipee flood plain ordinance, which requires adherence to the anchoring and elevation requirements of the National Flood Insurance Program.

Per Freedom officials: “We are concerned that the soils on the peninsula will not meet [those] standards and ask that you consider requiring an independent engineer’s assessment of the anchoring system. Without that, Freedom is concerned that these units might dislodge and degrade water quality.”

New Commercial Buildings
The approved site development plan also allows the construction of new non-residential buildings, such as community bathhouses. Ossipee’s floodplain ordinance requires that all new construction or substantial improvements of non-residential structures have the lowest floor elevated to, or above, the 100-year flood level.

“We request that the Planning Board enforce this requirement as a condition of approval, thereby avoiding noncompliance with the town’s adopted flood plain ordinance,” the letter states.

Freedom officials also detailed concerns about what it feels is a less than complete plan to remove all installations and evacuate the property in the event of a flood emergency, and the likelihood of floating debris that could harm water quality and present other hazards in the event of “Base Flood” conditions.

Read the complete letter at this link.

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