Freedom—August 20, 2022—In a letter emailed late Friday afternoon to Effingham’s Planning Board, Meena LLC’s attorney Mathew Johnson said his client objects to the board providing time for Ossipee Aquifer expert Dr. Robert Newton to testify about the gas station application in public session.
Further, a petition asking for a more complete independent review of the application should not be accepted because it would “improperly inject politics” into the process; and the role of North Point Engineering, the Planning Board’s independent engineering consultant, should not include attending the hearings, at least not at Meena’s expense.
Friday’s letter was in response to a letter submitted to the board on August 12 by Biron Bedard, the attorney for Meena’s abutting residential property owners who oppose Meena’s “Development of Regional Impact” (DRI) affecting nine towns.
While the abutters asked for Dr. Newton and North Point to appear, and that the petition be accepted, the main thrust of their letter was their belief that Meena’s revised Stormwater Management Plan will violate two provisions of the Effingham’s Wetlands Ordinance by directing gas station runoff onto N.H. DOT property.
On the wetlands issue, Meena’s attorney on Friday said only that his client will address it “on or before” the Special Hearing, which is Monday evening at 6:30 p.m.
Meena’s letter to the board was a surprise ending to a more than month-long wait for new materials for the board and public to review prior to Monday’s Special Hearing, at which the gas station application will be the sole focus.
A public hearing scheduled for July 7 was scuttled just hours before the start time after Board Chair Theresa Swanick decided members had insufficient time to review Meena’s newly revised Stormwater Management and Spill Prevention Control plans, and North Point’s assessment.
Meena has not submitted any new materials since June 30 despite North Point flagging 14 items in the revised materials that it believes require changes, corrections or explanations—including addressing questions about Meena’s proposed use of N.H. DOT wetlands for gas station runoff.
North Point said if the two new plans, prepared by Horizons Engineering, were meant to replace previous plans prepared by Meena agent Mark McConkey, then all conflicting documents “should be revised accordingly or a separate Site Plan should be prepared.”
The consulting firm’s observation about the Site Plan’s content was consistent with complaints by opponents of the gas station who have argued for months that the Site Plan Application contains errors, omissions and conflicts beyond what North Point found in its assessment of the two parts of the application it was asked to review.
An online petition posted by Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation Group garnered 670 signatures spanning the nine DRI towns asking the Planning Board to make good on its April 7 vote to review “the application and all materials submitted.”
The petition was submitted to the board twice, most recently on July 28, but has not been discussed or acted on. In his Friday letter, Meena attorney Johnson said the Planning Board “should not accept the petition as a document relative to the site plan application as it has no bearing on the application.”
The question about whether the Planning Board should permit geoscientist Dr. Robert Newton to testify before the board in public session has similarly been circulating for months without resolution.
In addition to having extensively studied the Ossipee Aquifer for more than 50 years, the Smith College Professor Emeritus and Madison property owner has substantive experience reviewing development plans for planning boards as a member of the Barnes Aquifer Protection Advisory Committee in Massachusetts.
In his online video about the Meena site, viewed 982 times, Newton called the property the “worst possible location” for a gas station because of its uniquely transmissive soil, proximity to the aquifer and former use as a gravel pit.
Newton wrote twice to the Planning Board, in January and March, requesting time to share his knowledge of the aquifer and the Meena site at one of the board’s public hearings. Ossipee Lake Alliance made the same request on his behalf in June after Newton’s requests went unanswered. The Alliance’s request similarly received no response.
In his Friday letter to the Planning Board, Meena’s attorney said “Mr. Newton is not an abutter and has no standing to testify or be heard regarding any aspects of this case.”
Seeming to conflate Newton’s expertise as a geoscientist with North Point’s expertise as civil engineers and land planners, Johnson said “The Planning Board already has a consulting engineer, Northpoint (sic) Engineering…to advise the Planning Board on technical matters.”
Johnson went on to say that Meena objects to North Point attending the hearing because “that is not the role of a consulting engineer.”
“If the Planning Board wishes for Northpoint (sic) to attend the hearing in person, the Planning Board should pay for that time, not Meena,” Johnson concluded.
The Special Hearing on the Meena LLC application will be on Monday night, August 22, at 6:30 p.m. in Effingham Town Hall. Those preferring to attend online via Zoom must register at this link.