Ossipee – August 15, 2008 – When is enough finally enough? For the Ossipee Bluffs Association, that time has come.
In a six-page motion to Hillsborough District Superior Court, an attorney for the big lake property owners group has asked that environmental violator Donald Lee be slapped with civil penalties of $5,000 per month, and that a lien be placed on his property to ensure he complies with a state-ordered remediation plan that is expected to cost $850,000.
Responding to the motion, Lee said he can’t comply with the specifics of an April court order to remediate his environmental damage to Ossipee Lake because the plan will cause irreparable harm to the shoreline and home of a neighboring property owner who is not connected with the long-running case.
Lee is basing his contention on Exhibit 33C, one of hundreds of complex remediation plan documents submitted into evidence in the September 2006 Superior Court trial in which he was found legally responsible for environmental damage caused by intentionally altering the course of the Lovell River and ignoring repeated DES directives to cease and desist. The judge, James O’Neill, ordered Lee to remove tons of sand and debris from the lake and restore the river’s natural flow at his sole expense.
After 19 months without an approved plan in place, O’Neill in April gave Lee 60 days to obtain a permit to implement the “preferred alternative” remediation plan presented by environmental experts at the trial. Exhibit 33C is one of the documents detailing the preferred alternative plan.
Bluffs attorney Jed Callen said the preferred alternative plan requires dredging a 700 ft. by 150 ft. channel and removing 25,000 to 30,000 cubic yards of sediment. Instead, according to Callen, Lee in June applied to dredge approximately 7% of the channel area specified by the court and remove 1% of the sediment.
Callen said the court was clear that Lee was to implement a specific plan, not propose an entirely new plan. In addition to being unresponsive to the judge’s directive, Callan said Lee’s application contains “a pile” of extraneous documents, including pictures, graphics and reports, which are “not germane to the assigned task, not introduced at the trial of this case, and clearly submitted for the purpose of contradicting the findings and outcome of the trial.”
Firing back, Lee’s attorney, Finis Williams, said the court-mandated plan cannot be implemented because following Exhibit 33C will damage the property of abutting property owner James Lamm, including having to remove his house and portions of his shoreline.
Williams accused Bluffs attorney Callen of “not being candid” with the court by “submitting an improper exhibit” in the form of an incorrect version of Exhibit 33C, and by taking confusing and “totally inconsistent” positions on the meaning of the document.
“One has to wonder whether the said case is driven by the obsession of a few people who seek to take Mr. Lee’s property and turn it into their private club,” Williams wrote in his filing with the court.
Acknowledging there were errors in the original Exhibit 33C submitted to Lee, Callen said a correct document was quickly produced after the errors were discovered. He said mistakes he made in explaining the technical requirements of the plan to Williams were also quickly corrected, adding that the intent was to bring Williams up to speed because he did not represent Lee at the trial and did not hear the expert testimony.
The new legal filings are the latest turn of events in a case that is now in its 20th year without resolution despite the involvement of the N.H. Department of Environmental Services, the court system and the office of the State Attorney General.
An article detailing the background and history of the case can be found on the Ossipee Lake Alliance website at this link.