Freedom—October 28, 2021—A review of the site plan application for the proposed Boyle’s Market gas station is on the agenda for the Effingham Planning Board meeting on Thursday, November 4 at 6:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, abutting property owners and two local non-profit organizations have filed a Superior Court challenge of the Zoning Board’s approval of the gas station, calling it “unlawful and unreasonable.”
The controversy stems from the Zoning Board’s approval of a variance for area businessman Pankaj “Prince” Garg to pump gas at the Route 25 store despite the town’s prohibition against gas stations in the Groundwater Protection District, where the business is located.
A previous gas station at the site was closed and dismantled by the owner in 2015. Garg bought the store last year with what he later said was “an understanding” with zoning officials that there were no town regulations to prevent him from pumping gas again.
In March, the ZBA approved Garg’s application, which his representatives said included “fail-proof” safety features for the underground gas tanks. The Planning Board, however, declined to review the site plan until the ZBA resolved the issue of the zoning ordinance’s gas station prohibition.
Garg filed a new application asking for relief from the ordinance, but proceeded with construction, including installing underground gas storage tanks and piping, without a site plan review or building permit.
Acting on a tip about the illegal work, the town zoning officer issued a cease-and-desist order on May 13. But no fines were ever assessed, and the tanks remain in the ground and have been back-filled.
Three hearings were held on the variance application, during which public input focused on the plan’s conflict with the intentions of voters who approved the gas station prohibition as a way to protect drinking water in the Ossipee Aquifer, and the potential threat to adjacent residential wells and Phillips Brook, an Ossipee Lake tributary that empties into Leavitt Bay.
On August 4, the board voted 4-1 to approve the variance, saying the plan “falls within the Spirit of the Ordinance and Public Interest.”
Two abutting property owners, William Bartoswicz and Tammy McPherson, joined Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group in a motion for the ZBA to rehear the application, saying the applicant had failed to meet the five criteria needed to obtain a variance. The board denied the appeal on September 30, leading to the appeal to state court.
The Thursday, November 4, Planning Board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. at Effingham Town Hall. Any interested party may attend in person, or request ZOOM access by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Zoom requests must be submitted before 5 p.m. the day before the meeting.