Freedom—December 26, 2018—At the top of the list of lake news stories this year is the bombshell class action lawsuit filed by more than 70 Westward Shores campers against past and present owners of the campground and the Town of Ossipee.
In a nutshell, the suit asks the court to grandfather RVs and other camping units that allegedly violate Ossipee’s floodplain ordinance because they have attachments including porches, carports and three-season rooms. The plaintiffs claim that campground managers authorized the add-ons, and town officials implicitly gave their approval by taxing the additions.
The existence of non-compliant camping units on the property became a public issue after the Town of Freedom sued campground owner Northgate Resorts over its expansion plans. Northgate’s settlement of the lawsuit with Freedom required that non-compliant units be made road-ready or else be elevated to FEMA floodplain standards.
Northgate initially offered to help campers work their way through town laws and campground requirements, but then dragged its feet, according to allegations in the court documents. With their investments at risk, and faced with an October deadline to comply with zoning or get out, the campers hired an attorney.
But there’s more. The lawsuit also alleges that Northgate engaged in unfair and deceptive sales tactics by advertising and selling more than 20 camping units—and taking a 15% commission—without revealing to the new owners that the structures would have to be modified at substantial expense or else be removed from the property.
Westward Shores’ previous owners were also hit hard by the suit. The document charges that Joan Brassil and Anthony Aversa failed to inform campers after Northgate offered to purchase the property, and instructed their employees to keep the offer under wraps until a sale could be completed.
By state law, Brassil and Aversa should have given campers notice of the offer and an opportunity to make a counter-offer, according to allegations in the court filing. If the court finds in favor of the plaintiffs, the two previous owners could be on the hook to campers for 10% of the $7,130,000 purchase price. The plaintiffs are additionally seeking compensatory damages and legal fees from the current owner, Northgate, in regard to the allegedly deceptive sale of non-compliant units.
Camp Marist Tax Decision
In another court case, the Town of Effingham in September lost a battle with Camp Marist over its charitable property tax exemption. The town has long been at odds with the Marist Brothers’ camp, and the current dispute stems from 1990. To resolve its tax-exempt status at that time, Marist entered into a long-term agreement to provide up to 30 annual scholarships for Effingham children in exchange for an annual tax exemption. After the agreement expired in 2014, the town pulled the camp’s exemption and the issue went to court.
In the first round, a Superior Court judge sided with the town, ruling that Marist offered too few scholarships and had a camping program that resembled those found at for-profit camps. Upon appeal, the New Hampshire Supreme Court found the opposite, ruling that the camp meets the law’s four-part qualification test as a charitable institution.
It was announced in August that the long-delayed plan to upgrade the Ossipee River dam complex will start in 2019. Jim Gallagher, the state’s chief engineer, made the announcement at a public forum the Alliance hosted that month in Freedom.
When completed in 2020, the $4.9 million state-funded project will replace aging infrastructure and help reduce—but not eliminate—the lake’s propensity to flood. The project had been in flux since 2009 due to state funding constraints.
Milfoil Funding Concerns
A February report by the Alliance showed that overall spending to control invasive milfoil in state waters has increased substantially, but lake communities, homeowner associations and individual donors still pay far more than Concord to address the issue.
The report showed that $1.35 million was spent to remove or otherwise control variable milfoil in 2016, which is a 57% increase in total spending compared to the Alliance’s previous report in 2012. The state’s percentage of that total only increased by two points, however, from 30% to 32%. Locally, close to $60,000 was spent to control milfoil in our lake.
Cyanobacteria—naturally-occurring but scary-sounding blue-green algae patches and colored flecks—were found in Danforth Pond this summer. Reported by alert residents, the state responded with a caution that swimmers and pets should avoid affected areas to be on the safe side.
But the caution never made it to organizations like the Alliance, which could have put out the word. Instead, speculation about the gunk spread across social media, prompting confusion and alarm. The mysteriously-appearing blooms later showed up in Berry Bay before vanishing in both locations.
The Marine Patrol contacted the Alliance in July for help finding witnesses to a nighttime incident in which a pontoon boat crashed into a moored boat near Long Sands around July 4 and left the scene. Like last year’s boat vs. house accident at Deer Cove, however, no one had any concrete information.
We are grateful to have had another year at the Alliance, and most especially we thank those who contributed financially to help make our efforts possible. Thanks also to our talented board, whose members bridge the lake and town communities in Freedom, Ossipee and Effingham. A special thank you this year goes to retiring board member Jean Hansen, a remarkable volunteer who has for years ably served the lake community and her town, Ossipee.
From his Broad Bay home, Bob Smart continued to entertain and illuminate with his lively reports on lake life and articles about the ins and outs of operating the dam and managing the water level. And we would have been poorer without the articles our Tamworth friend Dave Eastman writes for us about the lake’s wildlife.
The Alliance turned 15 this year. Where has the time gone? All the best to you and your families for 2019!