Ossipee—January 3, 2017—A Superior Court judge has ordered that work related to the expansion of Westward Shores Campground must stop until Freedom’s lawsuit against Ossipee is resolved. The Town of Freedom is suing its neighbor for approving the expansion, which will double capacity at the business.
Work on the expansion began in the fall after Ossipee’s Planning Board granted the town’s approval. The work included activity on what’s known as the Peninsula, a low-lying, previously residential property on which the business wants to park 15 year-round rental RVs served by a new septic system.
In its court filing, Freedom argued that approval of the expansion should have been conditioned on having the owner, Northgate Resorts of Michigan, meet the terms of Ossipee’s Floodplain Ordinance because the entire campground is on the floodplain.
Without those protections, Freedom believes floods can compromise septic system connections and harm water quality, as well as dislodge RVs and their attachments, causing debris to float into the lake. Effingham has joined Freedom in the complaint against Ossipee’s approval.
Last month Freedom announced it would pay the legal cost of the case by raising funds privately. Town officials say they have obtained commitments for $12,000 of the $17,000 goal.
Existing Conditions Eyed
Meanwhile, the debate over the expansion has caught the attention of the state agency overseeing compliance with FEMA regulations, under which towns like Ossipee qualify for federal flood insurance.
Ossipee’s Floodplain Ordinance, which was adopted in 1995, is based on FEMA standards and requirements. One of those requirements is that that camping units cannot remain on the site for more than 180 days annually unless they comply with one of two options.
One option is that units be fully licensed and ready for highway use in case evacuation is required. The second option is that units be on a permanent foundation above the base flood level, and be securely anchored to resist flotation, collapse, and lateral movement. The base flood level is 414 ft., which is four feet higher than the elevation of most of the property.
People familiar with the campground say there are many units on the property year-round that do not comply with either requirement.
For example, none of the seven units listed for sale on the Westward Shores website appear to be elevated, yet all of them have one or more permanent add-on features that suggest they’re not road-ready. Those features include all-season rooms, manufactured carports, and wooden decks. One unit is advertised as having two wooden decks and a camp lot that is “fully landscaped.”
In its court filing, Freedom cited a “considerable number” of such “semi-permanent vehicles” on the property. Freedom officials worry that new units installed as part of an expansion could also be out of compliance unless Ossipee’s approval is conditioned on meeting the FEMA-based elevation and security requirements for units on site for more than 180 days.
The New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning is responsible for developing model floodplain ordinances based on FEMA regulations. Jennifer Gilbert, Senior Planner and State Floodplain Program Coordinator for the agency, said her office is aware of the Westward Shores situation and is looking into it.
A summary of the Westward Shores situation may be found here.