Effingham—October 31, 2022—In an appeal to Effingham’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, Ossipee residents Tammy McPherson and Bill Bartoswicz said the Planning Board violated the Zoning Ordinance when it ruled Meena LLC does not need to apply for a Special Use Permit to handle “regulated substances in quantities exceeding 100 gallons” at its proposed gas station.
The appeal to the ZBA follows by several weeks an appeal of the same Planning Board decision to Superior Court, which resulted in Judge Amy Ignatius issuing a stay in all proceedings in the case. McPherson and Bartoswicz were joined by Ossipee Lake Alliance and Green Mountain Conservation group in the appeals.
The appeals have created a new complication for Meena, a commercial real estate holding company that wants to build a gas station at the former Boyle’s Market site on the border of Ossipee, where new gas stations are prohibited as a threat to the Ossipee Aquifer.
The company was granted relief from the prohibition last year by Effingham’s ZBA, but has failed to obtain Site Plan approval because of opposition by conservation groups, as well as municipal officials and residents across eight towns that were granted Development of Regional Impact abutter status due to the property’s location in the Groundwater Protection District.
The lack of a Special Use Permit was identified as a deficiency in Meena’s Site Plan Application in April after North Point Engineering was hired to independently review the materials at the recommendation of the Lakes Region Planning Commission, which cited “the sensitive nature of the site.”
Meena’s attorney called North Point’s conclusion about the Special Use Permit “legally incorrect,” but said his client would “voluntarily” comply with the Ordinance’s Performance Standards, which include meeting minimum stormwater setbacks from water supply wells.
North Point repeated its position that a Special Use Permit is required when it submitted a second report to the Planning Board in July. But in August, the Board voted unanimously that the permit was not needed.
Planning Board Chair Theresa Swanick said the conditions of the ZBA’s variance for the gas station were “in line” with what the Special Use Permit would mandate, and the additional requirements were “redundant,” according to meeting minutes.
The conditions the ZBA attached to its approval of a variance were the submission of a Stormwater Management Plan and a Spill Prevention Control and Counter Measure Plan. Swanick chaired the ZBA at the time the variance was granted, but later resigned as a member.
Next Steps Unclear
The appeals of the Special Use Permit decision and the court-ordered stay in the proceedings have cast uncertainty over next steps in the Planning Board’s consideration of the Site Plan Application, a process that began more than a year ago and has seen multiple revisions and rewrites to correct errors, omissions and deficiencies documented by North Point.
This summer, Meena replaced a much-criticized Stormwater Management Plan by McConkey Construction with a one created by Horizons Engineering, in which Meena said it would use adjacent State land to process gas station runoff. The Commissioner of N.H. DOT quickly shot down the plan after being advised about it.
After Meena twice caused scheduled hearings to be postponed by failing to submit revised documents on time, the Planning Board gave the company a September 8 deadline to submit a final application, which it did.
A subsequent review of the materials by North Point, however, found they too contain deficiencies. A scheduled October 6 hearing on the final application was canceled and rescheduled for November 3 after Judge Ignatius ordered a stay in the process.
The Planning Board has until December 4 to reply to the Superior Court lawsuit and submit a certified record of all proceedings. The Board has not commented on the status of the scheduled November 3 hearing, which is still posted on the Town’s website.