Ossipee—January 12, 2017—Dan Hole Watershed Trust will continue to solicit private donations to contract with an engineer and have a build out study completed for Ossipee. If selectmen agree, according to Trust President Bob Pratt, that group would be honored to provide a copy to the town. At Town Meeting in March 2016, voters rejected a request for $3,000 to help fund a study that, based on the town’s zoning ordinance and population projections, what Ossipee will look like when it is fully developed in the future. Last month, the Trust offered to fundraise to match a state grant and then donate the resulting report to the town.
The planning board, at first, voted to accept the gift. Rep. Ed Comeau (R-Brookfield) called a point of order that caused that board to rescind its vote and send it to a public hearing. Selectmen have the only authority to accept gifts and donations being made to the town.
The public hearing was held Jan. 9 with lengthy public comment. Many who spoke their mind sided with the 2016 town meeting voters and said it was not only about the money but also that Ossipee citizens do not want the study. Proponents of the study spoke at the hearing to the benefit the study could have on future economic growth and to assist with Master Plan update and zoning ordinance changes.
Selectman Robert Freeman came into the hearing with his mind made up to vote against it. For Selectman Richard Morgan, the issue is different now, since the Trust is not asking for town tax money but rather offering to fund it themselves. His issue at the town meeting and continues to be that Green Mountain Conservation Group is involved in pushing for the study or funding it.
“I have a serious issue with Green Mountain Conservation Group. They were instrumental in blocking the people of Ossipee to having access to a beach on Ossipee Lake. As long as I’m sitting here I have absolutely no desire to work with them,” said Morgan.
“Ossipee has been brutally reactive and has not been as proactive as it could be,” said Ash Fischbein and said the build out study is a useful tool. Ossipee Planning Board member Robert Gillette was called to task for not fully disclosing his relationship with the Trust. He did acknowledge he makes an annual financial contribution to the Trust and that his wife is a trustee. He continued his previous stance that the study will provide valuable information that will help the planning board updating the 11-year-old Master Plan.
“There may be unpleasant or pleasant surprises but at least the surprises will come in the study and not when you collide with them five, ten, or twenty years down the road…That’s the point of the study – to try to anticipate future issues,” said Gillette.
Several people suggested that the proper way to handle the acceptance of the gift is to put it back to Town Meeting voters in March and let them reverse their March 2016 vote if they choose. Selectmen took the hour-long public comments under advisement and plan to make a decision at their Jan. 16 meeting.
Watch the entire meeting at this link. The build-out study discussion starts 25 minutes into the meeting.