Ossipee—May 16, 2019—In response to a motion by the plaintiffs, a Superior Court judge issued an order clarifying her February decision to dismiss one of four counts contained in a class action lawsuit filed by Westward Shores campers against the Town of Ossipee and past and present owners of the business.
In Count IV of their complaint, the plaintiffs sought damages from the campground’s previous owners, Joan Brassill and Anthony Aversa, for not providing campers with 60 days’ notice of their agreement to sell the property, citing the requirements of state law RSA 205-A:21.
Brassill and Aversa asked the Court to dismiss the complaint, and Judge Amy Ignatius agreed, ruling that the referenced law governs the sale of “manufactured housing parks,” and Westward Shores “best fits the statutory definition of a campground.”
On April 23, the judge denied the plaintiffs’ request to reconsider the dismissal. But in doing so, she clarified that her use of the term “manufactured housing” in her decision was limited to consideration of the “noticing” issue presented by the plaintiffs in Count IV, and not to the plaintiffs’ claims about “manufactured housing” in Counts II and III of the lawsuit.
In Counts II and III, the plaintiffs have asked the Court to rule on whether the physical improvements they made to their properties are permanent in nature, which could qualify them as “manufactured homes,” and whether those improvements should be grandfathered for zoning purposes.
The judge’s April 23 order states that neither question was resolved by the Court’s dismissal of the complaint against Brassill and Aversa, and both issues remain open and unresolved.
The class action lawsuit, joined by potentially up to 70 campers, is the result of a dispute over zoning enforcement and sales practices at the Ossipee Lake campground. Issues came to a head in 2017 after the current owner, Northgate Resorts, settled a lawsuit with the Town of Freedom over a massive expansion of the business that was widely opposed on the lake and caught the attention of FEMA, which threatened to yank the Town of Ossipee’s eligibility for flood insurance.
Campers were told to bring their units into compliance with the town’s floodplain ordinance by making them “highway-ready” with no permanent attachments (such as three-season rooms, porches and carports), or else elevate them above FEMA’s 100-year flood level and anchor them securely. The alternative was to remove their camping units from the property by October, 2018.
Campers responded that town officials and campground managers had allegedly previously assured them the permanent attachments were legal, and Ossipee had for years taxed them on the improvements. Campers also alleged that Northgate helped advertise and sell out-of-compliance units without informing prospective buyers of the risk.
After several failed attempts to negotiate a settlement of the issues, the campers organized, and in November asked the court to intervene.