Ossipee–June 15, 2017–The zoning board Tuesday evening granted Effingham a public hearing on the controversial expansion of Westward Shores Campground. Effingham was entitled to a hearing because it did not receive notice of a court-mandated public hearing given to the Town of Freedom in May. But at the end of the hearing, the zoning board again denied Freedom’s appeal of the Ossipee Planning Board’s approval of Westward Shores’ expansion. The case is still pending before Carroll County Superior Court.
Located at 110 Nichols Road in West Ossipee, Westward Shores has been seeking to add 261 new RV sites to 258 existing campsites. The parcel totals 308 acres; however, 45 will be under conservation.
Last month, the case came back to the board on remand from Superior Court following a legal challenge by Freedom, which charged Ossipee with denying its appeal of the planning board’s approval of Westward Shores without holding a public hearing first.
Westward Shores is owned by Grand Rapids, Mich.-based Northgate Resorts through Northgate Ossipee LLC, which is owned and operated by the Bossenbroek family.
Freedom, which abuts Ossipee Lake, is concerned that the project could contaminate the lake. The planning board approved the expansion last September, but Freedom said Westward Shores’ proposal didn’t meet Ossipee’s own zoning requirements and asked the zoning board to consider an appeal. Freedom convinced Superior Court Judge Amy Ignatius to order Ossipee Zoning Board to hold a public hearing on the expansion, and Ossipee Zoning Board did so in May. However, Effingham selectmen said they were not properly notified.
The agenda for Tuesday’s hearing stated: “Need to re-hold the public hearing because the town of Effingham was inadvertently excluded from the previous hearing.”
About 30 people attended Tuesday’s hearing, though some were there for other matters before the board. Among the attendees was Effingham selectmen’s chair Henry Spencer, who spoke about the importance of keeping the lake clean. Spencer called the lake “a tremendous financial generator that’s extraordinarily important to the area. Effingham has a fairly small footprint on the lake, but the footprint it does have represents a pretty big portion of our taxable property.”
He noted that Freedom, which also abuts Ossipee Lake, is concerned the project could contaminate the lake and that Ossipee officials didn’t interpret their own ordinances properly.
Ossipee Zoning Board member Jim Rines replied that the floodplain ordinance is applied when an applicant seeks a building permit. He said the site plan approval allowed Westward Shores the right to redevelop its property but it has to build in accordance with the ordinance, which means that dwelling units would have to be on a foundation or properly anchored. The zoning officer issues building permit.
“They can’t demonstrate compliance with that yet because they haven’t pulled building permits for those improvements,” said Rines, adding that the planning board ordered Westward Shores to comply with federal, state and local regulations. “If they don’t comply, that invalidates their site plan approval.”
Rines added that Effingham residents like Spencer are at a “disadvantage” because they were not at the first hearing in which these issues were addressed. He also said that the Ossipee Zoning Board’s task after the public hearing would be to determine whether to send the case back to the planning board or keep the case at Superior Court.
Attorney Peter Malia, who represents Northgate, said the proposed project has been through five public hearings and was thoroughly vetted. He said it should not go before the planning board again as questions raised by Freedom and Effingham have been answered.
“There is a 1,200-page certified record; there is a 32-page plan set. Each page contains numerous details, many of which were hashed out by the planning board and their engineer,” said Malia. “The planning board hired independent engineers, Jones & Beach; they wrote three separate, lengthy letters outlining questions they had, all of which were answered by Mr. Flores (Dan Flores of SFC Engineering of Windham which did design work for Northgate).”
Malia said the case is still before Carroll County Superior Court. “Freedom is going to have another bite at the apple trying to convince the judge in Ossipee to send it back to the planning board,” said Malia.
Malia said Northgate hopes to avoid a lengthy court proceedings with Freedom. On Monday, Ossipee selectmen rejected a settlement proposal from Freedom.
Spencer and other attendees also asked if part of the septic system was being located in soils that are inappropriate for that use. Malia and Rines said DES allows septic systems that use “innovative alternative technologies” in such soils, and that’s what Northgate was planning to do.
Spencer seemed to be mollified. “It does sound to me like you are exercising due diligence,” he noted.
Hearing attendee Theresa Swanick, who serves on Effingham’s planning board, said homeowners could lose eligibility to get flood insurance if Ossipee doesn’t enforce its own floodplain ordinances.
The zoning board voted 4-0 to deny Freedom’s appeal. Member Bill Grover was absent. The 30-day appeal period began Wednesday.
“It’s going to be the way it’s supposed to be or else they are not going to have it,” said Bob Freeman, selectmen’s representative to the zoning board of Northgate’s plan. “We don’t want nothing to end up in the lake. That lake is our income.”