Westward Shores Hopes to Go Condo

Ossipee – June 2, 2009 — Westward Shores Campground, located in West Ossipee on the northwestern shore of Ossipee Lake, is seeking approval for a condominium conversion. Their application appeared before the Ossipee Planning Board on May 5th and was continued to June 2nd.

A Family Campground
Westward Shores Campground has been in operation since the 1940s and has been owned since 1999 by Charlie Smith, with John Hardie and Mark Debitetto as part of his management team.

In its early years, the campground likely had a temporary look about it, with people camping in tents and small pop-ups. Nowadays, the campground has a more permanent look to it: people camp in campers that have skirted underbodies, attached wooden decks, awnings, and add-a-rooms; the sites are decorated like yards with picket fences and lawn ornaments; and everywhere are the accoutrements of summer fun — picnic tables, patio tables and chairs, gas grills, golf carts, bicycles, tricycles, and beach toys.

The campground’s dirt roads snake through the woods up to the lake, where there are two sandy beaches and access to the campers’ boat slips. Facilities include a store, three bathhouses, a main building, and tennis courts. The sites are heavily wooded and well-maintained. It looks like a place where families return summer after summer to enjoy the lake and the company of their campground neighbors.

Westward Shores operates primarily as a seasonal campground. Sites are categorized by location and are priced accordingly: “lakefront” sites rent at $7,195 per season, “water view” are $4,050, and “woodland” sites cost $3,200 per season. A boat slip costs an additional $1,325 per summer.

According to the campground’s website, most sites are occupied by seasonal campers, “allowing families to set up their site and call it their home on the lake all summer.” The campground has some sites available for nightly rental by people who are “usually referred guests by…seasonal families.”

According to Smith and Hardie, Westward Shores is not a year-round campground. Its summer season is defined as sometime in early-May (the date depends upon the weather) through mid-October. The campground is open in the winter from the day before Thanksgiving until all the snow is gone. During the winter months, the campground is only partly operational: water to the sites is turned off, leaving campers with access to water at the heated bathhouses.

In the words of owner Smith, his campground is “a family campground” for “summer fun” and “winter snow machining.”

The Condo Conversion Application
It sounds like a great place. So why pursue a condo conversion?

According to Smith and Hardie, the push for the condo conversion came from long-time campers — people who have invested significant funds into their camps and who want the security of owning the sites underneath them.

As things stand now, if the campground were ever to change ownership, a new owner could evict all the long-time, seasonal campers, condominimize the campground, and sell all the sites to the highest bidders.

However, according to Smith, if his condo conversion application were to be approved, a win-win situation would ensue: campers would have piece of mind (plus some equity) and revenue would be generated for the town of Ossipee and for the state.

But what if a long-time camper either does not want to or is unable to purchase the site? Would seasonal rentals still be available? Hardie stated that such campers would still be able to rent seasonally, and that if someone else wanted to purchase the site, the camper would have the right of first refusal. Campers who still don’t want to purchase would not be required to purchase; it’s “not an absolute.”

Smith and Hardie both emphasized if the condo conversion is approved, the only change would be a “change of ownership.” They would “not be adding anything new” to the campground and “nothing is going to be changed within the park.”

The condo conversion application appeared before the Ossipee Planning Board at its regular meeting on May 5. Bryan Berlind of Land Tech, a surveying and engineering firm located in Ossipee, presented the application.

He described the campground as sitting on a 136.5-acre parcel that is spread out over five separate lots with frontage on Ossipee Lake and the Bearcamp River. Two-thirds of the parcel is undeveloped, and the developed portion contains 251 campsites. If the condo conversion is successful, the five lots would be merged into one.

The conversion actually consists of two applications. The first, “Westward Shores Condominium I,” seeks a “conversion into six units.” The existing campground would be split into six condominiums: (1) the manager’s house and office; (2) the maintenance garage; (3) the restroom/showers, recreation hall, and gate house; (4) the marina store; (5) the apartment above the garage; and (6) the mailboxes installed on the gate house.

The second application uses those mailboxes as the mechanism for offering ownership to campers: “Westward Shores Condominium II” seeks a “conversion of Westward Shores Condominium I, Unit 6, into 251 units.”

According to Planning Board meeting minutes, Berlind stated that “Unit 6” consists “of 251 mail boxes. Campers would pay association dues rather than rent and would be buying an interest in the camp site.” Campers would not be purchasing a specific camp site; rather, they would purchase a 1/251% share of Unit 6 – the mailboxes.

The Planning Board found Application I to be “complete with the inclusion of the Fire Chief’s response to the plan” (the Board hadn’t yet received the Chief’s response). The Planning Board requested more information regarding Application II: the condominium documents, a map showing the camp sites, and the legal opinion of an attorney indicating that there are no legal problems with this application.

By meeting’s end, the Planning Board approved “Condominium I conditional on receiving the Fire Chief’s approval and acceptable condominium documents” and continued the case until June 2.

Site Ownership Offered to Campers
Smith and Hardie stated that they expect to receive final approval at the June 2nd meeting and will then initiate the approval paperwork with the State, a process, they predict, could take a while.

According to information disseminated from the campground to their campers, management began to offer site ownership to their campers in May. Management wanted to give their long-time campers first shot at site ownership before offering sale to the general public, and they were prepared to accept intent-to-purchase documents and refundable $500 deposits, to be held in escrow. This initial offer had a due date of June 1.

Despite the conditional approval granted by the Planning Board on May 5, delays in the process led management to step back from the June 1 deadline. Though they are proceeding with the planned conversion, management has communicated to campers that there is no deadline for purchase and that all escrowed deposits will be returned.

A Useful Comparison
There might be some lessons to learn from a similar condo conversion of another campground on the lake.

In 1988, Totem Pole Campground, located on the Freedom side of the lake, condominimized. It’s now called Totem Pole Park, a condominium campground. The conversion agreement with the Town of Freedom included a restriction on the camping season, defining it as May through October and prohibiting winter camping. The understanding was that owners in Totem Pole could not become town residents.

In 2003, the Totem Pole Park Association applied to the Freedom Planning Board for an extension of its operating calendar, asking for an increase to eleven months from six months. The application was eventually approved by the Freedom Planning Board, but not without extensive public dissent.

Freedom residents expressed concern that an eleven-month operating calendar would allow owners in Totem Pole to become town residents, to vote in town elections, and to register their vehicles in Freedom. Public Hearings were held, and pressure was put on town officials to revoke the 2004 decision, thereby re-establishing the six-month calendar.

In September 2005, the Planning Board voted not to revoke the 2004 agreement. In the summer of 2006, the Totem Pole Association applied for a minor change in their calendar: rather than closing during the month of March, they asked to be closed from November 15 through December 15. The Planning Board approved the change.

If the Westward Shores condo conversion is approved, will Ossipee town officials and residents face the same issues?

Hardie and Smith stated that with or without the condo conversion, the campground is uninhabitable year-round. Water to individual sites is turned off during the winter and anyone who visits their camps during those months has to get all their water from one of the bathhouses; it would be difficult and unpleasant for a family to live in their camper all winter.

Furthermore, given Westward Shores’ calendar of operations, it’s impossible for campers to inhabit their camps for a consecutive six months a year; therefore, they can’t be town residents.

Next Step
In the end, Smith and Hardie emphasize that they “care about the lake.” After all, Ossipee Lake is their “livelihood.” They say they have no interest in putting “a burden on the infrastructure of the town.” They’re just trying to make their campers happy.

The Westward Shores Condominium applications are on the agenda for the June 2 meeting of the Ossipee Planning Board.

[Cynthia Davis is an Ossipee Lake Alliance contributing reporter]

Westward Shores Hopes to Go Condo

27 thoughts on “Westward Shores Hopes to Go Condo

  • June 2, 2009 at 3:43 pm
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    “The understanding was that owners in Totem Pole could not become town residents.”

    Yeah, that worked. Not.

  • June 2, 2009 at 5:15 pm
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    Hank, How many Totem Pole Owners do you know who are residents of Freedom?

  • June 3, 2009 at 6:51 am
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    Sad to see a campground sell lots like this. We are losing places on our lakes for the general public to vacation on a first come first served basis, open to all.

  • June 3, 2009 at 11:21 am
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    So let me get this straight. A capmer could buy all 251 sites in the campground and still only have a 17% share in the association? Which means they have no control over association fees? Sounds like a scam to me.

  • June 3, 2009 at 1:26 pm
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    The campers are not happy about this at all they are actually outraged!

  • June 3, 2009 at 3:07 pm
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    Over the years a seasonal camper might get pretty attached to their site. Deeded site ownership, especially if they can winter store their toys on it, and the opportunity to have a say in management might appeal to some. But just how is a 1/251% share of a bank of mailboxes going to accomplish anything other then give a pay to play bonus to the current owners?

  • June 3, 2009 at 3:21 pm
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    I am a seasonal camper in that area and if I was faced with this situation I think I would be outraged as well. They are putting many seasonals “up against the wall.” Many opted for this situation because of the financial aspect (its cheaper) Someone affiliated with WS is making out in this deal. I can see many leaving. Thats a given. I hear they Danforth Bay is having a tough time filling their 55 and up, newly dug sites. Maybe they can take in WS people!

  • June 3, 2009 at 8:43 pm
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    Campers at WWS were under the impression that this condo conversion plan was to be approached much more slowly. In fact, a recently scheduled WWS informative meeting was canceled, with management recognizing the campers’ concerns of purchasing property in today’s economy. Campers (many from Mass) were not informed by management that last night’s meeting was taking place.

    The alleged “push for the condo conversion came from long-time campers” did not come from any long-time campers I’ve spoken with.

  • June 3, 2009 at 8:45 pm
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    I left WWS last year as the campground has steadily gone downhill under the current owners. The marina and launch ramp are a disaster the main parking lot is a junkyard and dumpsite for broken down construction equipment. It is no secret that the place is about ready to go belly up and this is a mad dash to get cash into the owners hands. I feel really sorry for the friends I left behind. The town of Ossipee better watch this train wreck very closey and make sure the town and the property abutters are protected. Hey anyone know a banker that will lend tens of thousands of dollars for a WWS mailbox?

  • June 7, 2009 at 3:07 pm
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    Campground is all done! Being forclosed on! Campers were never even notified and read about it today in the newspaper. I thought they were quote “just trying to make their campers happy” Well Happy Campers they are not! The owners have done nothing to help improve this campground and basically have screwed 251 families! Not a good situation at all!

  • June 7, 2009 at 3:11 pm
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    Not surprised at all, very unfortunate situation. Hopefully, a new owner will come along and put some money into the place, instead of his pockets! It could be a very beautiful place, just needs some TLC and some owners that actually care! Hopefully it will all turn out for the best!

  • June 7, 2009 at 5:13 pm
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    Can you be more specific about where you saw a foreclosure notice?

  • June 7, 2009 at 6:32 pm
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    Boston Sunday Globe Auctions section, Hopefully Someone good will pick up our campground and make it work , or a small or large band of wws campers could band together and buy it at auction, hehehehe, anyone?

  • June 7, 2009 at 6:56 pm
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    This is news to us. Can someone scan it and email it? Or fax it? I cannot find it in the Globe’s online site. Email is info@ossipeelake.org. Fax is 509-271-3838. Many thanks.

  • June 7, 2009 at 7:46 pm
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    Page J 15 of the Boston Globe, could not find it online either, but it’s in the paper black and white! The campers should come together and buy it, it would be better run ~ without a doubt!

  • June 7, 2009 at 8:42 pm
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    We have it now and will follow up on the story.

  • June 7, 2009 at 9:00 pm
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    Ossipee Lake Alliane should be interviewing the campers, you may be surprised at the stories you would here! Your article from before was very far from the truth!

  • June 8, 2009 at 3:56 am
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    Unfortunately my prediction came true with the foreclosure notice. Came much quicker than even I expected but now it is obvious this condo scheme was a ruse to put quick cash in the owners pockets prior to them losing the campground. I hear if the alliance checks around with local vendors they will also hear plenty of horror stories about chasing these people for money. The sooner the campground changes hands the better as absolutely no one can run this place any worse than the present owners!

  • June 8, 2009 at 9:01 am
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    First of all let me explain to everyone that this article is a bunch of BS. No campers were ever notified of the condo conversion. We were ALL given 3 pieces of paper the weekend wanting us to put up a deposit to secure our intent to purchase a mailbox number. There were no meetings with seasonal campers, no one had any answers to our questions, 3 pieces of paper thats all… Who would purchase a campsite like they are proposing when the current owners are still in control of the entire park except you site. They control how much it is going to cost you to have a guest stay with you ( which by the way is 15.00 a night) you are going to pay this even if you buy your site!! They will control the recreation hall, the play ground, the marina, the front check in house and the management house. So basically you will be playing by their rules with no say in the above, you have got to be kidding me!!! WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD BUY A SITE under these rules.
    Take a look at TOTEM POLE campground which is very nice and it is owned by the owners of the sites. The owners have a say in what goes on, what fees if any are going to be charged etc. There is a board of directors made up of owners, not outside or current owners, but the actual owners of their sites.
    Let me also point out that if you get wood dropped of you have to pay the guy an additional 15.00 which goes to the current owners, they tell us Charlie and John make him pay this fee, feel free to contact them and they will confirm this.
    And don’t forget if you do buy and want to sell you site with your camper on it you will have to pay the HAPPY owners a 6% fee, even if you find a buyer on your own.
    Don’t forget the 30.00 so called deposit for a gate key card, even if you pay your seasonal site fee you have to pay the 30.00.
    I would ask the HAPPY owners to provide a list of the people who were interested in doing this, we have spoken to just about everyone in the campground and not one showed interest under their rules.
    The campground could be so much nicer if the HAPPY owners spent some money on fixing and using the recreation hall, cleaning up old campers that have been sitting for years, cleaning the empty sites from leaves and debris.
    Read ALL the comments, I am sure once this page gets sent to the seasonal campers you will see a huge response.
    You will see that if the current management is involved in the condo it will not work, NO ONE TRUSTS THEM, would you if you got 3 pieces of paper telling you about what was going on. They wouldn’t even have a meeting to discuss with everyone.
    For this to work the owners as at Totem Pole need to own the ENTIRE park and have a Board of Directors to manage the property. DO NOT TRUST what you are being told or what you read about how HAPPY Charlie and John are or how you will be treated, THEY DO NOT CARE about you, the only thing on their mind is MONEY, your MONEY.

  • June 8, 2009 at 9:12 am
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    According to Planning Board meeting minutes, Berlind stated that “Unit 6″ consists “of 251 mail boxes. Campers would pay association dues rather than rent and would be buying an interest in the camp site.” Campers would not be purchasing a specific camp site; rather, they would purchase a 1/251% share of Unit 6 – the mailboxes.

    This section says it all, you are going to own a mailbox that is it!!!!! Live under their rules and regulations!!!!! WILL NEVER WORK WITH THEM IN CONTROL

  • June 8, 2009 at 9:17 am
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    I agree with the statements listed in the above replies. There are too many questions and not enough answers. What about taxes? What would the taxes be for 1/251% of property on Ossipee Lake?… and I would have to pay for guests on top of all the other fees I would need to pay? Sounds like a Win(WWS)/Lose(campers) situation to me.

  • June 8, 2009 at 9:44 am
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    Let me also point out that if you get wood dropped of you have to pay the guy an additional 15.00 which goes to the current owners, they tell us Charlie and John make him pay this fee, feel free to contact them and they will confirm this.
    And don’t forget if you do buy and want to sell you site with your camper on it you will have to pay the HAPPY owners a 6% fee, even if you find a buyer on your own.
    Don’t forget the 30.00 so called deposit for a gate key card, even if you pay your seasonal site fee you have to pay the 30.00.
    For curent owners or new owners don’t forget if you sell your camper on the site you have to pay a 15% fee, plus 150.00 fee to the campground!!!!!!!!!!!!! EVEN IF YOU FIND A BUYER ON YOUR OWN, if a friend or relative buys it you pay the fee regardless…..
    If you do decide to but a mailbox and want to rent it out for a week you will pay the campground a 100.00 fee!!!!!! But you won it how can they do that you ask?? Because they are in control thats why!!!
    Are you thinking about renting a boat slip it will cost you 1300.00 for the season ( currently). If you buy a mailbox they are in control of the boat slips, they could charge what ever they want, why you ask, Because they are in control!!!
    Currently water and sewer are included in the site fees. But if you buy a maibox, yes you are correct, they can charge you what they want, because they are in control!!!!!
    How about the rest rooms and showers which are part of what they will still own. Maybe they will start charging you to use them if you buy a mailbox. Because they are in control!!!!
    Lets say number 3 unit below needs reapir who do you think is going to pay for that, Yes the owners of the mailboxes!!! The conversion actually consists of two applications. The first, “Westward Shores Condominium I,” seeks a “conversion into six units.” The existing campground would be split into six condominiums: (1) the manager’s house and office; (2) the maintenance garage; (3) the restroom/showers, recreation hall, and gate house; (4) the marina store; (5) the apartment above the garage; and (6) the mailboxes installed on the gate house.
    I think they could even charge you an entrance fee to get through the gate if they wanted to!!!!!!!
    All these issues need to be addressed TO THE SEASONAL CAMPERS who should I quote “According to Smith and Hardie, the push for the condo conversion came from long-time campers — people who have invested significant funds into their camps and who want the security of owning the sites underneath them.
    WHO are these campers??
    Where are these campers??
    Are these campers at WWS??
    Please let us the seasonal campers know how many people out of the 251 actually gave you a deposit…

  • June 8, 2009 at 1:08 pm
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    Even if somehow the owners get out of this foreclosure, I think, actually I know many campers would be thrilled if they just sold! The campers are not happy and just want a real owner who cares about the campground as much as they do. There are many, many hidden fees and nobody mentioned how the prices in the store have gone up! Outrageous! Their is one person who maintains the campground and as much as he does it’s just not enough. There are no activites – none! No more DJ’s or Karaoke nights, no welcome back BBQ! The campers are the ones doing the organizing of any gatherings they may have. It’s just very disapointing how poorly this campground is run. It’s time for some new owners! Please do us all a favor and – SELL!

  • June 8, 2009 at 1:26 pm
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    What about “They will make no changes to the campground” – that’s for sure, it’s because they don’t want to invest another penny in the place, they just want our money to invest elsewhere! So many campers are unhappy with the management of this place and are afraid of what will happen next!

  • June 8, 2009 at 2:48 pm
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    Get out now and find a new campground while sites are available !!! These current owners sound greedy and unreasonable. What a shame for the long timers who are so settled.

  • June 8, 2009 at 3:08 pm
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    charlie smith cannot put 2 sentences together without telling a lie

  • June 10, 2009 at 7:02 am
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    Campground has gone down hill since Charlie bought it- John Picard was strict but his rules applied to all and he took pride in the appearance of the campgound. Charlie is just in it to take make as much money as possible and go on to his next business venture. Its a shame and a disgrace. Docks don’t get put in to July, you have to repair your own dock, raw sewage runs in the campground streets as he doesn’t pump out the cesspools, there are no public restrooms open, no activity director for the kids and the front gate house and the dump open whenever its convenient for him. A new owner would be a blessing or maybe it is time to move on to Danforth. Having a dock on the main lake is no longer worth all the grief that Charlie and WWS camping brings

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