Ossipee–July 7, 2016–Ambitious expansion plans recently outlined by Westward Shores Cottages and RV Resort, a campground on the northwest shore of Ossipee Lake, have area residents concerned about what that might do to the lake. Meanwhile, the Ossipee Planning Board has awarded a bid to an engineering firm to examine the plans and see if they conform to the town’s ordinances.
Located at 110 Nichols Road in West Ossipee, Westward Shores is seeking planning board approval to add 246 new RV sites to its existing 258 campsites. The entire parcel is about 308 acres. However, 45 acres will be placed in conservation.
It is owned by Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Northgate Resorts through its Northgate Ossipee LLC. Northgate is owned and operated by the Bossenbroek family. It purchased the campground last December from JB & TA Enterprises LLC, which was managed by Joan Brassill and Anthony Aversa. Northgate also owns several Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Parks around the country.
In an email, Northgate CEO Zachery Bossenbroek shared details about his family’s business. “We’re building a portfolio of some of the finest camping resorts in the country,” said Bossenbroek, noting that the other principal is his father, James Bossenbroek. Zachery said sisters Greta and Chelsea oversee operations and development. There are eight other siblings.
On Tuesday the planning board awarded a bid to Jones & Beach Engineers of Stratham for a cost of $4,500 paid by the applicant. Planning Board members said the proposed project is so large the town needed outside compliance assistance. “We need a second pair of processional eyes,” said board member Bob Gillette. Jones & Beach has a July 19 deadline, the date of the next planning board meeting.
“The Peninsula” is a Focal Point
The Westward Shores discussion regarded a presentation of its final plans and input from the public, including comments from about the area. About 40 people attended. Many comments focused on the “peninsula area” of the project, which juts into the lake, according to a map from the developers. The peninsula area would contain 15 campsites.
In presenting the plans, Dan Flores of SFC Engineering of Windham said they have changed the proposal due to concerns raised by the board and Green Mountain Conservation Group. “We have moved all campsites 50 feet from the water’s edge, where they used to be 20 feet,” said Flores.
The peninsula, which Northgate bought from the Reynolds Living Trust, whose trustees are Robert and Phyllis Reynolds, is on a separate lot than the rest of the resort. A lot merger would have to be OK’d by the board before development ensued.
Robert Reynolds, a Freedom resident on the board of Ossipee Lake Alliance, created controversy when he wrote a letter of support for the project on OLA letterhead to the zoning board before OLA had a chance to review the plans. OLA since released a statement that Reynolds was not speaking for them and that SFC should not use the document as an endorsement from them.
Contacted by the Sun, Reynolds said the letter simply reflects his personal and professional opinion and he tried to make that clear. He said the purchase agreement for the property was signed months before he wrote the letter of support. He denies any conflict of interest.
At the meeting, Flores spoke about septic issues surrounding the proposed site on the peninsula. There is a septic leaching field on the peninsula for a three-bedroom house that will be moved to a new location 1,000 feet from the lake, though the state requires only 75 feet. Other septic systems for the campground will be even further from the lake.
Flores said the septic systems will be watertight and can be capped so floodwaters don’t mix with the sewage. The peninsula would be open for camping from the first full weekend in May until the first weekend after Columbus Day. The applicant’s engineers also said septic systems for the rest of the property are 3,000 feet back from Ossipee Lake.
Several people were concerned about the proposal for the peninsula. “When there is a 50-year flood or a 25-year flood or a 100-year flood, those campers need to be moved immediately,” said a woman who identified herself as Susan Pohl. “The Bearcamp River floods quickly and fast…where do you put those trailers?”
George Fredette of SFC Engineering said the applicants understand the peninsula is prone to flooding and that the trailers will need to be secured. Northgate is weighing its options. “The owner is waiting to see the site and understand the site conditions,” said Fredette. “Either secure them and raise them above the floodplain elevation or move them.”
Blair Folts and Corey Lane of Green Mountain Conservation Group called for having no further development on the peninsula and for a flood evacuation plan for the entire site. They say the 100-year floodplain elevation is 414 feet, and much of the land at Westward Shores is 410 feet.
Planning Board members disagreed over whether the planning board or fire chief had jurisdiction over an evacuation plan. In an email to the Sun, Zachery Bossenbroek said he believes flooding concerns are “way overblown.” He said the campground is use compatible with floodplain areas. He said people would be able to vacate Westward Shores if a flood was imminent.
He said the last material flood on Ossipee Lake, in 1998, was caused by mismanagement of the dam and since the state dam bureau took over in 1999, no significant floods have occurred. The existing campground on the peninsula survived the 1998 flood and prior floods. He added that he and his engineers are working on a flood response plan just in case something does happen.
“With respect to the peninsula, we will comply with the local floodplain ordinance and FEMA guidelines by anchoring the park model RV cabins and elevating them above the floodplain,” said Zachery Bossenbroek. “As such, they will be unaffected by floods and the cottage that has existed on the peninsula for decades. There won’t be any unsecured, ancillary structures, decks or debris/gear on the peninsula.”
Former selectman Harry Merrow said he liked the proposed plan but was concerned about flooding and advised Westward Shores to use that area to launch canoes and kayaks rather than for camping.
Several residents worried that campers could not be removed quickly enough in the event of rising water levels. One man said he owned property on the Bearcamp River for about 30 years. He recalled a flood in 1990. He said big floods still occur. He supported the campground as long as the major issues are resolved.
“This is the gem of Ossipee,” he said. There are very few million-dollar homes that are not on the lake in the town of Ossipee.”
Noreen Downs of Madison wondered if developers would be willing to forego building on the peninsula since it constituted just a small part of the overall project. But Fredette said it was the focal point of Northgate Ossipee’s development. “They see these as being premiere site. Our job as engineers is to make sure it’s done environmentally correctly.”
Some people in the audience supported Westward Shores and said it would be a boon for the town. They hoped the project wouldn’t be overburdened by regulators.
Gillette wanted to know how the campground would make sure the sewer outlets would be sealed in the event of a flood. Fredette said Westward Shores would have the campers cap their sewer connections and managers would double check after campers leave.
At the beginning of the meeting, planning board member Roy Barron said he had a concern about the 16-foot-wide access road on the peninsula. He said it was less than 20 feet wide, which he said building codes call for.
“The priority in my book is safety for the people that the fire truck can get there, that the ambulance can get there, and people don’t get hurt or run over through stupidity,” said Baron.
Others said the zoning board and West Ossipee fire chief already signed off on the 16-foot-wide road. Fredette said the road was narrowed to reduce the wetlands impact and there are pull-offs along the way. “We are addressing the concerns in order to earn the right to have campers out there,” he said.
Others worry about campers bringing more milfoil into the lake. Planning Board Chairman Chester Kwiatkowski said Westward Shores has its campers sign an agreement about checking their boats for milfoil before entering the lake.
Fredette said the developers would also ask state Fish & Game for advice regarding milfoil and then talk to Westward Shores about how to implement Fish & Game’s suggestions.