Effingham—February 4, 2022—Effingham’s Planning Board last night ruled the Meena LLC site plan application for a gas station in the Groundwater Protection District met the town’s criteria for completeness and can advance to public hearings.
The first of what will likely be multiple meetings on the plan will be on February 24 at 6:30 p.m. in Town Hall.
Last night’s meeting was attended by approximately 70 people, half of whom logged-in through Zoom, perhaps in deference to the night’s wintery mix of rain, snow and freezing rain.
The site plan application was four previous times ruled to be incomplete last year because of administrative errors, including mistakes in providing notice to abutting property owners.
After the board voted the application was complete last night, Mark McConkey, representing property owner Pankaj “Prince” Garg, thanked the board and offered a brief overview of the proposal. The board then voted to continue the proceedings for three weeks.
Interest in the gas station plan spiked this week after Ossipee Lake Alliance published a news story about a video produced by noted geoscientist Bob Newton, who has studied the Ossipee Aquifer for more than 50 years.
Citing his research, and using a technology called Airborne Laser Scanning, Newton graphically illustrated the extent to which the Meena site has been mined for sand and gravel. He concluded it was “the worst possible location” for a gas station and would threaten wells from Blueberry Estates to Broad Bay and Leavitt Bay.
Newton pointed to the threat of above-ground spills and accidents, which he said were a routine occurrence at gas stations, and said the applicant’s plan to direct gas station runoff into a state-owned infiltration basin off Route 25 would carry it directly into the water table.
More than 700 people have viewed the video since Monday, resulting in letters and emails to the Planning Board that ranged from expressions of concern to opposition. Planning Board Chair Theresa Swanick noted receipt of the correspondance at last night’s meeting, mentioning letters from Effingham Conservation Commission, Town of Porter, Green Mountain Conservation Group and Saco River Corridor Commission.
A review of the correspondence by Ossipee Lake Alliance showed public input from the three towns that ring Ossipee Lake as well as from Tamworth.
Referring to last year’s ZBA approval of a variance to supersede the town’s Groundwater Protection Ordinance, Berry Bay property owner Linda Habif wrote: “This [ZBA] decision nullifies the water protection ordinance that your residents passed in 2011. How can this legally be allowed by your town?”
From Kelly Goodson, who is a Tamworth Select Board member: “I am asking you to uphold your town’s water ordinance and not permit the gas station over the sensitive and permeable layer over the aquifer that we all share…Your town voted for a water ordinance for a reason, they wanted the aquifer protected. Please do that for them.”
In an email, Nancy Sheridan said she is a local business owner who supports business opportunities and jobs, but believes “this proposal is not worth the risk to all of us [and] the health of our ecosystem.”
Posting on the Ossipee Lake Alliance website, Ossipee resident Doug Brown called Bob Newton’s video “incredibly disturbing.”
“So Effingham will make the decision and collect the taxes while all the risk (health, financial) affects us residents of Ossipee. Where are our town reps? Where is the state?,” he wrote.
Reached by email, Bob Newton told Ossipee Lake Alliance that he sent a letter to the Effingham Planning Board on January 23 asking for time to make a presentation at one of the hearings. He said he has not yet received a response.