Effingham—August 28, 2022—In a letter last week, the N.H. Department of Transportation said any stormwater treatment measures or requirements for Meena LLC’s Development of Regional Impact gas station need to be on Meena’s property, not on abutting State-owned land.
“The highway right-of-way will not become an integral part of the development’s stormwater management plan,” said N.H. DOT Commissioner Victoria Sheehan in a letter to Green Mountain Conservation Group and Ossipee Lake Alliance dated August 24.
Meena’s most recent Stormwater Management Plan, submitted to Effingham’s Planning Board on June 30, proposed putting equipment on State land as part of a “closed system” to capture gas station runoff. Ultimately the runoff would have entered a “level spreader” to be dispersed into DOT’s wetlands.
The Planning Board’s consultant, North Point Engineering, flagged the plan as problematic, noting, among other things, that there did not appear to be an agreement with the State for the arrangement.
Opponents of the gas station, including abutting residential property owners, said through their attorney that the plan would violate Effingham’s Wetlands Ordinance and increase the likelihood that petroleum contaminants could enter the groundwater through a basin, which the state calls a “ditchline,” next to Route 25.
DOT’s decision means the Conway company must rewrite its Stormwater Management Plan and submit it by September 9. The Planning Board set the deadline after Meena’s late submittal of materials caused a Special Hearing on August 22 to be canceled shortly after it began.
More than 100 people who appeared in person and online to discuss the Site Plan Application were angered by the cancellation, the second postponement this summer caused by Meena’s delays in submitting required documents.
The Planning Board said it will review all materials received by the deadline at their September 15 work session, and then hold a public hearing on October 6.
In a concession made after a testy exchange with attendees at the truncated August 22 meeting, Board Chair Theresa Swanick said she would accept a submission from geoscientist and gas station critic Dr. Robert Newton, provided that his information is “new” and he meets the deadline.
Swanick said the board is familiar with Newton’s research and his opinion that the Meena site is the “worst possible location” for a gas station because of its highly transmissive soil and location in a recharge area for the Ossipee Aquifer.
Meena purchased the former Boyle’s Market convenience store in January, 2021, and two months later won ZBA approval for a Special Exception for a gas station. The board subsequently realized that pumping gas at the site had been legally abandoned as a grandfathered use, and the Groundwater Protection Ordinance prohibits new gas stations.
An application for a variance to provide relief from the gas station prohibition was approved by the ZBA that August and survived a legal challenge in Superior Court. That has left it to the Planning Board to determine, through the Site Plan review process, whether a gas station at the site will threaten the public’s health, safety and welfare, as critics of the plan charge.
Meena agent Mark McConkey submitted the first Site Plan last September. Since then, numerous versions have been submitted, withdrawn and rewritten, and the review process has been plagued by delays and continuances for procedural and technical reasons.
Most of the materials in the current plan were written by Horizons Engineering in the past four months, replacing the McConkey documents.