Ossipee—November 2, 2017—The purchase of Camp Sokokis is the town’s best hope for acquiring a residents-only beach on Ossipee Lake, selectmen’s chair Richard Morgan told a crowd of about 100 residents and out-of-towners gathered Monday at town hall for a public hearing on the proposed land purchase. Ossipee selectmen want to purchase land and buildings located at 130 Gretchen Road for the purpose of a town beach and recreation area. It would include 52 acres and 200 feet of beach frontage.
The land is being sold by Dianne and Bill Sheehan of Ossipee. They had offered a smaller piece of land for free, but Morgan said that proposal wouldn’t meet the town’s needs because it wouldn’t have been large enough and lacked space for parking.
Selectmen said they don’t want to run a campground; they just want residents to have access to the lake. The asking price is $1.2 million. Residents will be asked to vote on the proposal at a special town meeting set for Nov. 28. Selectmen and the budget committee will hold more public hearings on the proposal today [November 2].
Morgan said getting a beach on Ossipee Lake has been a goal for decades. But right now, access to the lake is limited.
“If you do not do this, I think it is the death knell for the concept of a beach on Ossipee Lake,” Morgan said, “because I don’t know of another site available or likely to become available.”
He listed a number of features that make the site attractive, including access to and from Route 16B, which means residents can access the beach without disrupting neighborhoods. It also has plenty of parking.
“Some of us have been looking for this site for 15 years,” said Morgan. “Somebody show me another site on Ossipee Lake that would give what this site gives, and I’ll gladly take a look at it. I can tell you they are not out there.”
In addition to being used for swimming, the site also would be used in the winter for ice-fishing and snowmobiling.
Residents pressed Morgan on maintenance and police patrol needs. One man asked if police really had time to monitor the beach, to which Morgan replied, “That’s a preposterous presumption.”
Morgan said police are patrolling the town all day, every day, and they have time to patrol the beach as needed.
Audience members chuckled when Morgan said there was wide enough of passing two cars.
“I don’t think so,” said one man.
One woman was upset that she would not be allowed to vote by absentee ballot, and Morgan said that’s an issue for the New Hampshire Secretary of State.
The purchase would be paid for by taking $200,000 out of the town’s unassigned fund balance and then bonding the rest for about 30 years at a cost of $85,000 per year. That equates to 15 cents per thousand dollars of property value if there’s zero growth, “which never happens,” said Morgan, adding that between 2016 and 2017, the town’s value went up $7 million. Last year’s tax rate for the town was $6.29 per thousand dollars of assessed value.
Morgan also clarified there would not be a lifeguard at the beach. He said lifeguards are hard to find and increase the town’s liability. He said the town’s beach ordinance on Duncan Lake would apply to this new beach, which means it wouldn’t be open at night, and alcohol and pets wouldn’t be allowed. The beach would be open only to Ossipee taxpayers and their guests. Access would require a transfer station sticker.
The docks would be removed, Morgan said. “Boats and swimmers do not mix.”
One audience member asked how the purchase and sales agreement related to the 45 campsites. Morgan said some of the campers can stay until 2020. Campers would have to move to make room for parking.
Maureen Nault, a new resident and camper of 12 years, was skeptical of the purchase.
“My question is where would the $1.2 million be better spent — for the economic development of your town, which would attract more residents and raise your assessment, or a town beach you could use for three or four months per year?” asked Nault, noting that Ossipee schools have had low test scores.
Morgan said the school and its budget have nothing to do with the town. He also asked her if residents deserve a place to access the beach.
“There was a donated beach,” she replied.
Some, like Indian Mound Golf Course owner Jonathan Rivers, were concerned about the economic impact of losing 45 campers. Selectman Sandra “Sam” Martin said nearby businesses might actually see an increase in revenue because beach-goers would be staying in Ossipee rather than traveling elsewhere.
Planning board member Dennis Legendre added that Westward Shores had been approved for 150-200 campsites at Ossipee Lake.
“There’s going to be more than enough to make up for those 40 campsites,” said Legendre who also said he supported the purchase.
The selectmen will hold a public hearing on the proposed bond at 5:30 p.m. today [November 2] at the town hall. The budget committee will hold a hearing on the proposed town beach at 6:30 p.m. at town hall.