Ossipee — August 24, 2017 — Selectmen here have entered into an agreement to purchase Camp Sokokis and establish the town’s first public beach on Ossipee Lake. Negotiations have been in the works since March town meeting, when voters approved establishing a $25,000 reserve fund for the purpose of acquiring a town beach.
Selectman Richard Morgan made the announcement at the board’s Aug. 21 meeting that seller, Diane Sheehan, and the selectmen all signed a purchase and sales agreement, agreeing to a purchase price of $1.2 million. The campground includes 45 seasonal campsites, 24 boat slips, four moorings, and 200 feet of beach frontage on Ossipee Lake.
Camp Sokokis is accessible from Route 16B on the private Gretchen Road. The road will also become town property and is an “absolutely straight shot to the beach,” said Morgan. Currently, Camp Sokokis is also accessible along the winding, narrow town-owned Hodsdon Shore Road off Route 25 East. The property is actually eight separate parcels, including 52.84 acres with a total assessed value of $1,261,806. Much of the acreage is taxed at the reduced current use rate. The combined property tax bill for the eight properties paid to the town in 2016 was $26,389.
Morgan said there is the opportunity for the town to continue to rent out 30 of the campsites and many of the boat slips. This, he said, could generate enough income to pay the bond. This is a perfect opportunity, he said, for the Town of Ossipee to have a beach on Ossipee Lake without the taxpayers having to pay for it.
Morgan said the current owners, Bill and Dianne Sheehan “deserve a great deal of thanks” for giving the town the opportunity to acquire this property.
“It speaks volumes about their character,” said Morgan.
There were other potential buyers, he said, “standing in line with cash in hand” but the Sheehan’s agreed to enter into the Town deal instead.
Morgan said he has listened to people complain his whole life about the fact Ossipee people do not have public beach access on Ossipee Lake. “If the townspeople are serious and truly want a beach on Ossipee Lake this is very likely their last opportunity,” said Morgan. The only other alternative, he said, would be purchasing individual properties in lakefront neighborhoods and tearing down structures.
The purchase and sales agreement, signed by selectmen Aug. 15 and by Dianne Sheehan the next day, spells out some of the terms. There are additional terms, said Morgan but overall it is a very clean agreement. The Town agrees to keep the Gretchen Road name in perpetuity as it is named after the owners’ daughter who is deceased. And, unless absolutely necessary, no white birch trees will be removed from the property as those were planted in her memory. The third stipulation is there will be no lot rent increases for any seasonal campsites that remain once the deal is finalized.
It will be up to Ossipee voters to decide if they want to purchase this property, enter into a bond to pay for it, and whether or not they want selectmen to be landlords. Selectmen will petition Superior Court to get permission to hold a special town meeting, hopefully in November. If granted, there will be a series of public hearings, a lot of details will be worked out, the budget committee will have the opportunity to weigh in, and then it will go to a vote of the people. Bond votes require a two-thirds majority approval of the voters present at the special town meeting.
Morgan called this week’s announcement an “exciting, exciting day.” There is plenty of planning and work to be done, so if anyone is interested in helping, Morgan said they are encouraged to “throw your hat in the ring.”