Effingham—October 4, 2022—There was a double dose of bad news for Meena LLC last week. A day after an independent assessment of the real estate developer’s latest gas station Site Plan materials revealed significant deficiencies, a Superior Court judge issued a Writ of Certiorari that stays, or pauses, proceedings in the case.
The two unrelated events cast doubt over this Thursday’s much-anticipated, repeatedly-delayed Effingham Planning Board hearing on the company’s proposal to build a gas station at the former Boyle’s Family Market in the Groundwater Protection District.
The Superior Court stay stems from an April report by Planning Board consultant North Point Engineering, which said Meena’s lack of a Special Use Permit (SUP) under the Town’s zoning regulations was a deficiency in its Site Plan Application.
Meena’s attorney rebutted the assertion, calling it “legally incorrect,” but said his client would voluntarily meet the SUP’s Performance Standards “to the extent applicable.” North Point reiterated its SUP opinion in a July 7 review of amended site plan materials, and recommended that the Planning Board discuss the issue with Town Counsel.
There the question remained until the Board took it up on August 22. After a brief discussion, the Board voted unanimously that the SUP was not needed because the conditions attached to last year’s ZBA variance providing relief to the developer were “in line with what [an SUP] would require,” according to the meeting minutes.
In an email, Ossipee Lake Alliance asked Board Chair Theresa Swanick whether she had sought a legal opinion about the SUP matter since the Board’s decision was contrary to North Point’s recommendation. The group did not receive a reply.
Meena abutters Tammy McPherson and Bill Bartoswicz appealed the SUP decision on September 21, joined by Green Mountain Conservation Group and Ossipee Lake Alliance.
Stormwater Management Still an Issue
In North Point’s latest review of Meena’s materials—its third—Stormwater Management continued to be a major issue vexing the company. In an echo of the Special Use Permit debate, North Point and Meena appear to be at odds over what is required by the Zoning Ordinance “Performance Standards” that Meena said it would voluntarily comply with.
The Performance Standards require that Stormwater Management Plans comply with the State’s Stormwater Manual, which contains four design criteria, one of which, “Stormwater Treatment,” is applicable to the gas station application, per North Point.
Meena believes it is “not required” to meet the Manual’s Stormwater Treatment requirements because its plan meets the criteria of the State’s “General Permit by Rule,” making an Alteration of Terrain (AoT) Permit unnecessary. North Point was unconvinced.
“This justification mistakenly conflates the AoT Permit requirements with…the stormwater treatment criteria outlined in the Manual…when, in fact, these are two separate and distinct requirements,” North Point wrote, reiterating that the Zoning Ordinance requires the applicant to comply with the Manual.
The North Point report goes on to detail a number of insufficiencies in Horizons Engineering’s latest site plans. An oil/water separator and ‘deep sump’ catch basins are suitable for “pre-treatment” of runoff to capture and remove coarse materials, but they will not remove all hydrocarbons as required. Moreover, the proposed use of “infiltration” as a component of Stormwater Management is specifically prohibited by the State Manual.
In regard to drainage, North Point said it was unclear from the grading plan how runoff will drain into the catch basins, noting that it appeared some drainage would flow down the driveway toward Leavitt Road instead of toward one of the basins.
The report’s list of errors, omissions and data mismatches include “vertical conflicts” that raise doubts about whether some of the elements, including the catch basins, can be constructed.
After twice failing to submit revised materials for hearings in a timely fashion—including an August 22 Special Hearing which the company had requested—Meena was given a September 9 deadline to submit its final materials, which it did.
The company’s Site Plan materials are estimated to be in their sixth or seventh version, but an accurate count is difficult to make because new materials by Horizons Engineering continue to be added to old materials created by Mark and Jacob McConkey dating back to April of last year.
The Planning Board has not responded to requests from conservation groups to provide a copy of what the Board believes is a complete “reference copy” of Meena’s Site Plan Application.