Freedom—April 5, 2022—Freedom’s Select Board last night signed and sent a ten-page letter to Effingham’s Planning Board detailing why it believes the application for the Meena LLC gas station does not meet the requirements of the town’s site plan regulations.
Conservation Commission Chair Jeff Nicoll and Planning Board Chair Anne Cunningham said they plan to attend the hearing on the matter, which starts at 6:45 p.m. this Thursday, April 7, at Effingham Town Hall.
Freedom has now joined Tamworth in exercising its abutter status granted when the proposal was ruled to be a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) because of its proximity to the Ossipee Aquifer.
Last week, Tamworth’s Planning Board unanimously voted to send a letter to Effingham planners asking them to deny the application as contrary to their town’s Groundwater Protection Ordinance.
Board chair Sheldon Perry said Tamworth is developing its own water protection ordinance, and Effingham’s approval of a gas station in a location where it is prohibited would be “a precedent which will encourage further inappropriate developments, thus weakening and threatening our own efforts to protect this essential resource.”
Also potentially to be discussed at Thursday’s hearing are issues Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group say Effingham’s planners have not previously addressed.
In a joint letter to the nine regional towns affected by the development, the groups said the gas station application presents unique environmental challenges that should have resulted in Effingham seeking qualified professional assistance to determine the environmental risks.
The letter also states the application contains a waiver request that appears to pertain to the professional qualifications of Meena LLC’s agent, Mark McConkey, who designed the Stormwater Management Plan. The plan is a condition of the ZBA’s approval of a variance for the gas station.
The waiver request is stated without an explanation, and has never been discussed by the board in public session.
The Stormwater Management Plan is one of a number of issues Ossipee Aquifer expert Dr. Bob Newton flagged in a two-page letter to Effingham’s planners last week.
Newton said the former gravel pit site where Meena LLC plans to pump gas is “so vulnerable to contamination it requires the highest level of aquifer protection,” something Newton said McConkey’s plan lacks.
“The submitted Stormwater Management Plan is completely inadequate, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the stormwater issues associated with a gas station,” he wrote.
“The plan to collect untreated stormwater and funnel it into the NH DOT infiltration basin is a recipe for disaster…as the floor of the infiltration basin is just above the water table.”
Newton also said the Planning Board should not rely on DES to evaluate the location’s risk factors.
“In granting the permits to install tanks, DES does not do any evaluation of the hydrogeologic conditions at the site,” he said, adding that they “treat all sites the same,” whether permeable or non-permeable; far away from an aquifer or on top of one.
“They rely on you to do that through the local site plan review process,” he wrote.
Those who want to attend Thursday’s hearing online may request a Zoom link at this address. Registration is required, but the deadline to apply has been dropped by the town.