Ossipee—March 19, 2017—After being delayed for a month, a controversial proposal to build a gas station and convenience store at the junction of routes 16 and 41 in West Ossipee is back on the Ossipee Planning Board’s agenda for Tuesday, March 21, at 7 p.m. in the Freight Station House building.
The applicant, Valley Point LLC, wants to establish a business at the former site of White’s Garage and the Johnson Oil Company to include eight gas pumps, a 5,000 square foot convenience store with a drive-up window, 25 customer parking spaces, and an employee parking lot at the rear of the building.
The application has sparked opposition from environmentalists, including Green Mountain Conservation Group. They say the plan is a threat to the area’s groundwater.
State and local records indicate the property is “extremely contaminated” from previous uses. It has been under a DES mitigation plan since 1993, but monitor wells show the pollutants remain in the soil. Those opposed to the plan fear excavation during construction will cause the pollutants to be released and enter the drinking water supply.
The site is in the town-designated Water Resource Protection District. As such, a gas station is not a permitted use unless both the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board rule there is no environmental threat. Contamination of the property took place prior to this provision in town zoning.
The ZBA signed off on the development in July 2015 when it voted 4-1 to grant a variance to the project’s previous principal sponsor, Four Long Pond Realty Trust. At the same time, and on the same vote, the ZBA granted a variance for the applicant to use underground gas storage tanks, which will require excavation.
In letters to the Sun and Independent last week, Green Mountain Conservation Group restated its opposition to the plan and posted documents and other information on its website.
According to the Ossipee town website, “if the Planning Board on March 21 is satisfied that the application and supporting documents meet the requirements of the Ossipee Site Plan Review regulations, it will vote to accept the application as complete. Once the application is accepted as complete, a public hearing on the merits of the proposal will follow immediately. If the application is found to be incomplete, a date for the public hearing will be announced.”
The Valley Point plan is the second significant proposal in Ossipee to generate public questions about a development’s potential to harm groundwater. Last year, Ossipee’s planning and zoning boards both signed off on a plan by Michigan developers to double the size of Westward Shores Marina and Campground despite its location on the Ossipee Lake floodplain.
Green Mountain Conservation Group opposed the Westward Shores plan as environmentally unsound and a threat to groundwater, and were joined by the Towns of Freedom and Effingham. After Ossipee approved the plan, Freedom took Ossipee to court, where the case remains unresolved.