Ossipee – September 14, 2008 – A Broad Bay couple says they think their neighbor’s lake webcam is illegal and should be taken down. Lakeside property owners Doug and Donna Brown of Broad Bay Rd. made the claim at the Ossipee Board of Selectmen’s August 25 meeting.
“It’s creating a nuisance for us,” Doug Brown said according to the Carroll County Independent. “We’ve consulted the town’s zoning book and believe it’s illegal to be there; we’re in a rural area.”
The webcam belongs to the Browns’ neighbor, John Rowe, one of the owners of Canoe King on Route 16 in Tamworth. Pointed toward the north, the webcam has a sweeping view of Broad Bay and distant Mt. Chocorua and operates year-round. Viewers can access it through the Canoe King website (www.canoeking.com) and it has been linked to other websites that aggregate webcam images.
At the Selectmen’s meeting, Mr. Brown claimed the purpose of the webcam is to get people to “come to the store and buy stuff,” according to the story in the Independent. The meeting minutes add that Brown’s wife, Donna, expressed concern that the camera “points onto her beach property.”
The selectmen referred the Browns to the town’s zoning board to seek an administrative order. But Zoning Enforcement Officer Dave Senecal said he consulted with the town attorney and believes the issue is a civil matter in which the town is not involved.
“I reviewed the zoning ordinance with respect to the question of whether use of the web cam on private property constitutes a commercial use when the ‘feed’ from the web cam is provided to a commercial business,” Senecal wrote in a letter responding to the Browns’ complaint.
“In the Ossipee Zoning Ordinance…commercial is defined as a use primarily concerned with the making of a profit from the sale of goods and services. Under this definition, it is highly doubtful that the web cam falls within the definition of a commercial use.”
In an interview with Ossipee Lake Alliance last winter, Rowe said a friend in Vermont got him interested in webcams and inspired him to install one at his family home on Broad Bay. He said he was surprised how many people have become interested in it.
“People outside the area see the lake on the webcam and want to be here,” he said, but there probably are also a lot of summer residents who miss the lake and just want a quick look during the off-season. The webcam lets them come back anytime they want.”
The webcam site also has a public forum where viewers can post screen captures of dramatic storms and sunsets and make comments. While some of the comments focus on technical issues, most are about life on the lake.
“We live in Georgia but summer in Freedom,” a poster called nhcarla wrote in May. “We just found your webcam…It just makes us want to leave tomorrow to come up…Thanks again for bringing Freedom just a little bit closer to those of us that miss it so when we are away.”
In other recent posts, a California couple said the webcam let them feel like they were part of their child’s camp experience by keeping “up to date daily on what the lake looks like, what weather is coming through,” and a Nebraska resident wrote “I’ve never been to New England, but if I ever make it up there, I will feel like this spot is a bit of home.”
We were unsuccessful in reaching the Browns for comment on their complaint.