Freedom—November 30, 2016—The town of Freedom is raising money to take the Town of Ossipee to court over its approval of the Westward Shores Campground, which the town of Freedom considers to be a potential threat to the Ossipee Lake. Located at 110 Nichols Road in West Ossipee, Westward Shores was seeking approval to add 246 new RV sites to 258 existing campsites.
The parcel totals 308 acres; however, 45 acres will be placed in conservation. Westward Shores is owned by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Northgate Resorts through Northgate Ossipee LLC. Northgate is owned and operated by the Bossenbroek family. Dan Flores of SFC Engineering of Windham came before the board Sept. 20 to ask for a special use permit and conditional site plan approval — the two OKs that the project needed from the planning board.
At that meeting, planning board conditionally approved the site plan dated Sept. 20 with the conditions that Westward Shores get water supply, subdivision and septic approval from the state and be in compliance with local, state and federal regulations. The motion passed 5-2 with alternate Rick St. Jean and Bruce Parsons in the minority. Bob Gillette was absent.
The town of Freedom filed its lawsuit against Ossipee on Oct. 18. The lawsuit was filed by Attorney John Rattigan. The town of Ossipee was served on Nov. 4.
During the process, the town of Freedom was granted abutter status because Freedom also has frontage along the lake. Freedom alleges that Ossipee didn’t give Freedom officials any time to review Westward Shores’ final plan before they approved it.
They also allege that the Ossipee planning board was not following its own rules when it made the approval. Freedom alleges Ossipee Planning Board was unreasonable because they approved the proposal where the evacuation plan depended on owners removing their RVs in the event of a fast moving flood even though owners may come from far away, that the approval of the plan did not meet Ossipee’s ordinances in terms of how manufactured homes in the “peninsula” area of Westward Shores would be anchored and that the approval did not meet the town’s ordinance when it comes to having systems to prevent sewage from mixing with flood waters.
Freedom Selectman’s Chairman Les Babb said that the project could pose a risk to the water quality of Ossipee Lake if there is a flood and a problem with the septic. This could depress property values and takes away from enjoyment of the lake. “As a selectman, do I care if they have 900 new sites? No,” said Babb. “I do care if they pollute the lake… That’s a big deal.”
The Freedom Conservation Commission with support from Planning Board Chairman Ann Cunningham has embarked on a fundraising campaign to raise the money to pay the legal fees. Selectmen gave their approval to the fundraiser on Nov. 21. “They recognize there are people who aren’t going to want to pay for this,” said Babb of fund raising organizers Paul Elie and Cunningham.
Babb explained why he supported the fund raiser.
“I don’t want to get drawn into a long drawn out court case but I want them to comply to their own ordinances because if they do that I feel the protection will be there,” said Babb.
Babb hopes that Ossipee and Westward Shores will reverse course and that the legal fees won’t cost anything beyond what has been spent already. If the conflict continues escalate, the Freedom selectmen may or may not continue to fight with funds in the town’s legal budget. “That’s something the board will have to weigh and vote on as we go forward,” said Babb.
Cunningham said money for the legal fees is being put in the town’s “The Ossipee Lake Protection Fund.” She said donations are tax deductible.
“The fund will only be used to pay legal fees associated with this case,” said Cunningham.
Checks would be payable to The Town of Freedom with the memo line with the name of the fund. On Tuesday, Cunningham said that the town has pledges for some of the money. They have $6,000 pledged in matching funds if another $6,000 can be raised up front. They have another $2,500 that was pledged but has not come in yet.
The town of Effingham is also an abutter. Effingham and Freedom unsuccessfully appealed Ossipee Planning Board’s decision to the Ossipee Zoning Board. On Tuesday, Effingham selectman’s chairman Henry Spencer said Effingham has not yet been officially approached by Freedom to assist in the lawsuit.
Ossipee Town Administrator Ellen White said Ossipee has engaged its attorney to respond to Freedom. She said Ossipee is going to pay the legal bills with the town’s legal budget. Ossipee is being represented by Attorney Rick Sager of Sager and Haskell PLLC. On Nov. 16, Sager asked for and was granted by the court clerk a continuence because he is recovering from eye surgery. Sager’s response is now due by Dec. 30.
On Nov. 4, Attorney Peter Malia of the Hastings Malia PA in Fryeburg, Maine, who represents Westward Shores, filed as an intervener and it was granted on Nov. 8.