Freedom—March 15, 2022—Ten towns, including two in Maine, have been sent a letter notifying them that the Meena LLC gas station proposal is a “Development of Regional Impact” (DRI) because of its proximity to the Ossipee Aquifer, the region’s primary source of drinking water.
The affected towns are Effingham, Ossipee, Freedom, Eaton, Madison, Tamworth, Sandwich, and Wakefield in New Hampshire, and Porter and Parsonsfield in Maine.
The letter, dated March 1 and signed by Effingham Planning Board Chair Theresa Swanick, was directed to “Regional Towns and Lakes Regional Planning Commission” and included the draft minutes of the board’s February 24 meeting at which members voted 5-2 to declare the proposed gas station a DRI.
The names of the towns were not identified in the letter, but were later confirmed by Ossipee Lake Alliance in an email exchange with Swanick.
The Lakes Region Planning Commission (LRPC) and the DRI-designated towns are now considered abutters to the development for the “limited purpose” of being notified about meetings and giving testimony. They must be notified by certified mail at least 14 days prior to public hearings, the next of which is scheduled for April 7.
In addition to being situated over the Ossipee Aquifer, the proposed site on Route 25 is in a former gravel pit on the Ossipee town line. There are close to two dozen Ossipee residential wells within 1,000 feet of the site. In a widely-viewed video, geoscientist and aquifer expert Bob Newton called the site the “worst possible location” for a gas station given its highly transmissive soils.
Last year, the Effingham ZBA granted a variance for the gas station despite the property being in the Groundwater Protection District, where gas stations are prohibited. An appeal of the decision by abutters, Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group is pending in Superior Court.
Some town officials expressed confusion about receiving Effingham’s letter without the application materials.
Roberta MacCarthy, who heads Berry Bay Association, was one of several Freedom residents who attended Monday night’s Freedom Select Board meeting to discuss their concerns about the proposal. She said the board acknowledged receipt of the letter, but said it had no other information with which to engage in a discussion.
Jean Marshall, who represents Freedom as an LRPC Commissioner, said she would provide the materials to the town. The Select Board said the gas station would be placed on next week’s agenda for discussion.
Marshall also asked Ossipee Lake Alliance to publish the site plan to make it easy for officials from other towns and members of the public to have access. Posted today, the link to the materials is https://bit.ly/meenasiteplan.
In an email to Green Mountain Conservation Group, LRPC’s Principal Planner, Susan Slack, said the Commission will review the application and offer comments and suggestions in a letter about how Effingham’s site plan regulations can be applied when the planning board considers the regional factors that may be impacted.
The letter will be sent to the town for inclusion in the record of the April 7 public hearing, she said, adding that the Commission is also available to provide technical assistance to the other LRPC-member towns designated as being impacted by the development.