State Says No to Key Part of Gas Station Plan

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.

10 Comments

  1. Patricia Riker 1 month ago August 29, 2022

    Thanks so much for this clearly written information about this most serious issue.

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  2. Perry Fine 1 month ago August 29, 2022

    All aspects of this leaves this resident wondering, why expend so much time, effort, and expense at such great risk, both to the economic base of the region (the lake, and by extension, our domestic water supply) and community good will, for such little return to the tax coffers and the balance sheet of a large corporation?

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  3. Robert G Gendreau 1 month ago August 29, 2022

    Thank you for the updates on this Critical Matter!

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  4. Ron Larrivee 1 month ago August 29, 2022

    Thanks for the update

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  5. Tom Bronzo 1 month ago August 30, 2022

    Tom Bronzo

    Perry Fine is right on target. The old saw “follow the money” shows minimal financial value to the town or the Company.

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  6. tj236 1 month ago August 30, 2022

    I was not aware that the basis for establishing a business was to add money to the tax coffers. I thought the idea of starting a business and working hard was to make profit, establish economic independence and have the potential for a better standard of living for oneself and family (you know, that silly thing called capitalism). If the business is being started to benefit the state/town, why bother taking on all the headaches, associated risks and costs?
    And speaking of risk has anyone been able to quantify the risk associated with re-installing a gas station at the site? Or are we looking for a zero environmental risk, tax windfall for the town as the only criteria to allow the station to operate?
    And if we are not OK with the Meena gas station, are we then OK with Abbotts’ gas station or any of the other gas stations on the lake? I mean if we really are panicked about the environment then don’t limit the prohibitive action to one little gas station…shut them all down!!!

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  7. Benjamin Franklin 4 weeks ago September 4, 2022

    Greetings. This is Founding Father Benjamin Franklin corresponding from beyond the grave, to express great appreciation to OLA for facilitating this discussion on a community issue of great importance–unfettered discussion among citizens who value transparency as a keystone to democracy has been so near and dear to my heart for more than 300 years!
    But TJ236 reminds us that I, too, was quite fond of writing whimsy under the cover of anonymity, shielding me from time to time from the inevitable embarrassment of accountability. Farce and wit, couched in the pretense of feigned logic, is a tricky business. As an old pro at this, I can proclaim that TJ236 has succeeded wildly. At moments such as this, I do wish I’d coined the phrase “laughter is the best medicine”; because TJ236 has provided us a powerful tonic.

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  8. Tim Otterbach 4 weeks ago September 4, 2022

    To TJ236:

    While closing all gas stations situated atop our highly sensitive aquifer is a great and noble idea, unfortunately there exists a certain aspect of the Zoning Ordinances which, (at this time), prevents us, the concerned citizens, from doing just that. All of the current gas stations,
    (8 if my recollection is correct), located over our Aquifer are grandfathered, that is, they existed prior to the enactment of the Local Ordinances protecting our groundwater.
    The illegally installed proposed gas station Meena intends to operate at the former Boyles Market site, however, is not grandfathered. The previous fuel dispensing facility at Boyles was discontinued, abandoned, in 2015 rendering it no longer allowed by grandfather laws. Further, it sits within Effingham’s Groundwater Protection District, and on a former gravel pit, basically the most environmentally sensitive of sites for a proposed gas station, also a Use “not allowed” in the Groundwater Protection District.
    And as we all know, there is no gas station facility which can provide zero environmental risks!
    Additionally, as national research has indicated, the profit margins on the sale of gasoline and diesel fuel are at best, pennies per gallon of fuel dispensed.
    Clearly the town will not realize much, if any, benefit from a gas station within its borders. And similarly, this propsed gas station will not bring added value or benefits to the citizens in Effingham, as there currently exists two gas stations within less then a mile from this location.
    However, this new facility, a reopened market, (without the gas station component), is certainly a viable and welcomed addition to the local business community, which will definitely serve the needs of the vast numbers of people who travel along Rt. 25, whether they be local citizens, or visitors to our area, just as Boyles Market had done for the several years, even after they, (with NH DES assistance), removed the old gas tanks, pumps and associated equipment.
    Perhaps Meena needs take a more practical and sensible look at their proposal and eliminate the gas station component from their Market plans. This is the only responsible action for them to consider.

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  9. TJ236 4 weeks ago September 5, 2022

    Not sure if Benjamin is trying to impress with literary skill or make an actual point. But if democracy is going to prevail it should be in the presence of hard facts and data.
    With that it is a fact that the proposed station is located within the aquifer. Also a fact that gas could leak into said aquifer. However it is also true that there are advanced mitigation measures to counter the risk. The one question I have not seen answered throughout the entire debate is the likelihood/probability of a gas leak from operation that would actually impact the groundwater. Without that the decision is just being made based on emotion… of which there seems to be plenty of.
    Additionally if anyone believes they have a right to modify Meena’s business plan they should not then be shy to provide working capitol commensurate with their influence.
    So at times like this I wish I had coined the phrase “better to keep quite and let everyone think your a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

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  10. Jon Swan 2 weeks ago September 17, 2022

    Save Forest Lake supports y’all, see you Oct 6! http://www.SaveForestLake.com #WaterWarriors Unite!

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