Ossipee—February 16, 2020—A lawsuit over zoning enforcement and sales practices at Westward Shores Campground was settled this week after the Town of Ossipee and Northgate Resorts agreed to allow the owners of out-of-compliance RVs and camping units to remain on the property until 2040 if they anchor their units to the ground in accordance with the town’s floodplain zoning regulations.
Northgate will purchase anchors and cables in bulk, and sell them to owners of the camping units at cost, according to a settlement agreement that was worked out in arbitration two weeks ago and filed in Carroll County Superior Court on Thursday.
The owners of the units need to obtain a building permit for the anchoring, and the work must be completed by October 1 and approved by Ossipee’s Code Enforcement Officer.
The plaintiffs in the case—more than 70 of them—sued Ossipee and Northgate as a group after failing to obtain relief from a mandate that they elevate their units above FEMA’s 100-year flood level and anchor them with cables. The units in question were modified and expanded over time with new rooms, porches and carports. Most of the work was performed without building permits or zoning board approvals.
The plaintiffs argued to the court that their units should be grandfathered because town officials and the campground’s previous owners assured them the modifications did not require town approvals. Moreover, they said, Ossipee levied taxes on the improvements without providing notice that the changes being taxed were impermissible under town law.
The settlement agreement provides relief to the plaintiffs by narrowing the scope of compliance to anchoring the units without requiring that they be elevated. But the relief is temporary because the units must be brought into full zoning compliance by the end of 2040. Presumably that means either elevating them or removing the add-ons to make them road-ready in case of flooding.
Non-compliant units that are sold between now and 2040 will have a shorter period of time to become fully compliant.
The settlement agreement applies to the owners of all non-compliant units, not just those who participated in the lawsuit. The actual number of expanded and modified units on the property is not noted in the court filings. Units that were previously grandfathered because they pre-date Ossipee’s adoption of the floodplain zoning ordinance are unaffected by the settlement.
In a second part of the lawsuit, the plaintiffs accused Northgate of violating New Hampshire’s Consumer Protection Act by helping sell out-of-compliance RVs and camping units without disclosing to prospective buyers that it was in discussions with Ossipee about requiring the units to become zoning-compliant as a condition of remaining on the property.
That aspect of the lawsuit was dropped as part of the settlement agreement.