Effingham—July 11, 2022—Last Thursday’s hearing on the revised site plan materials for Meena LLC’s proposed gas station at the former Boyle’s Convenience Store was abruptly postponed by Effingham’s Planning Board three hours before the start time.
In an email to Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group, Planning Board official Nate Fogg asked the groups to spread the word that there would be no public comment allowed that night.
Correspondence between the board and the respective attorneys for Meena LLC and opponents of the gas station show Board Chair Theresa Swanick realized on Thursday morning that the board had not had enough time to review Meena’s new materials, which were submitted on June 30. The need for a postponement became even more evident a few hours later when Swanick received a four-page evaluation of the new materials by North Point Engineering, which the board hired in April as an independent consultant.
North Point’s April assessment of Meena’s then-current plan revealed errors and omissions sufficient enough for the board to grant a two-month continuance of the hearing to allow the applicant’s agent, Mark McConkey, to revise the materials.
In its evaluation of the newly submitted materials, North Point found similar problems, including documents that conflict with one another, and, notably, the lack of a permit and long-term maintenance agreement with the state to use abutting DOT property for vital stormwater drainage structures. [A separate article will detail the new report].
In a late afternoon email to the attorneys in the matter, Swanick said she planned to recommend that the board continue the hearing “so there is time to review, and in the case of the applicant, respond to, the third-party reviewer’s second letter dated today, 7/7/22…”
Although word of the postponement spread quickly, approximately 15 people chose to attend the board meeting anyhow, with perhaps an equal number connecting via Zoom. As the meeting proceeded, the Zoom attendees signaled repeatedly that they could not hear anything. After approximately 20 minutes, the board recognized there was a Zoom issue and plugged in the microphone.
What the Zoom attendees missed was a discussion about establishing a date for a special Planning Board meeting at which the Meena application would be the sole agenda item. The board picked August 2 as the date.
But in an email to Ossipee Lake Alliance, Biron Bedard, who represents Ossipee abutters who oppose the development, said that while he and Meena attorney Matthew Johnson had agreed in general about a special meeting, they had not agreed on a date. Bedard said he would be contacting the board about the apparent disconnect.
Left unacknowledged and undiscussed by the board at the meeting was a petition submitted on July 5 signed by 599 property owners and municipal officials in nine Development of Regional Impact communities asking the board to require that all Meena materials be evaluated by North Point Engineering. The number of signatures has since grown to close to 650.
On April 7 the board voted to have North Point assess “the application and all materials submitted,” but without explanation subsequently limited the scope of the analysis to two parts of the 80-page Site Plan Application.
Also left unacknowledged by the board were letters in January and March in which Ossipee Aquifer expert Dr. Robert Newton asked for time to address the board in public session, and a letter from Ossipee Lake Alliance two weeks ago making the same request on Newton’s behalf.
A June 28 letter from the Public Policy Director of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests also went unacknowledged. In it, the organization urged the Planning Board to “consider carefully whether the proposed site is an appropriate spot, or if viable alternatives exist within town that will not have similar impacts to the Ossipee Aquifer and other important water resources.”