Effingham—February 26, 2022—Effingham’s Planning Board on Thursday ruled a proposed gas station at the former Boyle’s Market convenience store is a Development of Regional Impact (DRI). As a result, neighboring communities and the Lakes Region Planning Commission will be granted limited abutter status in the matter when hearings recommence.
The DRI statutes, NH RSAs 36:54-58, require boards to vote on DRI status before declaring an application to be complete. If a DRI is declared, notice must be given to potentially affected communities within five days, with hearings to start no sooner than 14 days after that.
Due to the waiting period, Thursday’s hearing was continued to April 7.
The discussion about the DRI status of the proposal didn’t occur until the hearing was well under way, with more than 50 people attending in person and on Zoom.
Interrupting a discussion about vegetative buffers, several Zoom attendees raised a point of order to remind the board it had failed to rule on DRI status prior to declaring the application to be complete on February 4.
In the ensuring discussion, several board members argued that since there was a lot of awareness of the proposal through news stories, there was no need to grant DRI status to the application.
That prompted a member of the public to ask the board to read the DRI RSAs aloud so the public could understand them and they would be entered into the record. After doing so, the board voted 5-2 in favor of declaring that the proposal had potential regional impact.
There was no discussion or vote on which communities will be notified.
Regional opposition to the development spiked last month after the release of an online video in which geoscientist and Ossipee Aquifer expert Robert Newton used layman’s terms and high-tech graphics to explain why the site is what he called “the worst possible location for a gas station.”
Newton pointed to the fact that the property was mined as a gravel pit years ago, exposing highly permeable layers of sand and gravel at the surface, and making the soil exceptionally sensitive to groundwater contamination.
The video has been viewed by more than 800 people, and letters of concern have been submitted to the town from around the region, most recently from Freedom Conservation Commission and The Maine Water Company, a public water system serving the Maine communities of Parsonsfield, Porter and Hiram.
Meanwhile, on Friday the parties to the Superior Court appeal of last year’s ZBA decision to grant a variance for the development filed written submissions in support of their February 11 oral arguments to Judge Amy Ignatius on the legal merits of the case.
The appeal is Green Mountain Conservation Group, Ossipee Lake Alliance, William Bartoswicz and Tammy McPherson v. Town of Effingham and Effingham Board of Adjustment. Meena LLC, owner of record of the proposed site, has intervenor status in the court proceedings.