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Ossipee selectmen request information from Freedom on lawsui

May 18, 2017
OSSIPEE – If the Town of Ossipee is being sued by another town, Ossipee taxpayers have a right to know who's footing the bill. The Town of Freedom, funded by an established non-profit organization, is suing the Town of Ossipee and its planning board for the latter's decision to allow a massive expansion of Westward Shores Camping Area on Ossipee Lake.

At the urging of Ossipee Selectman Richard Morgan, selectmen here voted May 15 to send a formal information request to Freedom selectmen. They want copies of the non-profit formation papers, the officers of the organization, and a list of the donors and the amounts they have donated. Morgan said the people of Ossipee have a right to know the people's names that are paying to sue them.

Morgan said the Town of Ossipee has already spent "several thousand dollars" defending against Freedom's suit. Morgan also said he finds a great deal of hypocrisy in the fact that Freedom has done far more development on Ossipee Lake yet finds the need to sue Ossipee when developers want to develop this side of the lake.

Sumner Brook hatchery

The Town of Ossipee is a landlord at Sumner Brook Fish Hatchery on Route 16 in Ossipee Corner. The town's conservation commission oversees the property that is leased out to a family who lives in the house and operates the fish hatchery. After a second chimney fire in as many years, selectmen sent the town's code enforcement officer down to inspect the property for any health and safety improvements that might need to be made to the property.

What he found is a long list of items that need to be repaired, including the roof in need of repair or replacement. The house needs to be painted, electrical outlets, railings, smoke and carbon monoxide detectors need to be replaced; and the septic tank needs to be inspected and pumped, among other things. To add to the complexity of the repairs, paint chips found on the ground have tested positive for lead. The code officer is now charged with getting quotes for all the necessary repairs.

Most recently, the lease was renewed in 2016 for the final three-year leg of its 15-year term that expires March 15, 2019. The lease payments of $600 a month have been deposited not in the Town coffers, but rather in a conservation commission-controlled fund. The lease of the property to Southegan Valley Aquaculture was approved by a vote of 2004 Ossipee Town Meeting attendees.

The lease spells out that the tenant is responsible to keep insurance on the property, keep the property clean, operate the fish hatchery, and pay all utilities. It also provides a list of all anticipated annual maintenance, improvements, and repairs needed at the property, but it does not exactly spell out who's responsible for paying for the list.

The tenant apparently found out the selectmen had concerns only after reading minutes of a selectmen's meeting.

"I was a little disappointed that [the discussion] made it sound like the house was falling apart," he said. Morgan dismissed that, but said the board is especially concerned about the lead paint. "I feel particularly responsible to make sure your kids are safe in a place you're paying us rent for," said Morgan. The two parties will meet to discuss the lease, responsibilities, and a plan but a date for that has not yet been set.

Sign ordinance

Because it detracts from the rural character of Ossipee, Selectman Sam Martin chose to vote against Kevin's Discount having an electronic sign in front of their business. Selectmen approve all applications for sign permits and likened the Kevin's sign to electronic changing signs already approved at Green Mountain Furniture and Subway Restaurant.

The frequency at which the sign message will change and the fact it will be "non-animated" dissuaded traffic safety concerns Morgan had and left no choice but to approve the permit. Morgan did make sure to point out, as he has on several occasions, that the town's sign ordinance and permit process are in serious need of revision sooner than later.

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