Effingham—February 26, 2023—Nearly six months after agreeing to Effingham’s demand that it submit its final site plan application for a gas station in the Groundwater Protection District, Conway developer Meena LLC last week sent the Planning Board an additional 90 pages of material.
Last year the board addressed Meena’s repeated document revisions and late submissions by giving it a deadline of 5 p.m. on September 9 “beyond which no further material would be considered for the application,” according to meeting minutes.
Meena met the deadline, but the materials it submitted received an unfavorable review by North Point Engineering, the board’s independent consultant on the application. North Point found the company’s previous submissions were also inadequate.
The Planning Board scheduled a public review of the materials for October 6, but a Superior Court judge issued a stay in the proceedings to sort out an appeal of the board’s position on the need for a special use permit. The October hearing was postponed and has been continued monthly ever since.
It is not clear whether the Planning Board accepted last week’s materials, given the September cut-off date and the court-ordered stay, which remains in effect.
The new materials are the eighth set of documents Meena has submitted in the hope of building a gas station at the site of the former Boyle’s Market. The plan has garnered substantial opposition in the nine towns that were granted limited abutter status after the application was ruled to be a Development of Regional Impact (DRI) last year.
The initial application, written by Meena agent Mark McConkey, was submitted in April 2021, and versions of it were resubmitted in September, October and December. Abutting property owners and lake and conservation organizations called the materials grossly inadequate, and the Town of Freedom wrote a 10-page assessment concluding the site plan requirements had not been met.
In April, the Planning Board hired North Point to advise it on the application after Lakes Region Planning Commission expressed concerns about the aquifer, and about Meena agent McConkey’s requests for waivers of five site plan requirements, including the professional qualifications requirement for himself.
After a negative North Point review in April, the McConkey materials were supplemented by documents written by Horizons Engineering. Horizons’ June and September submissions also contained serious errors and omissions, according to North Point.
Municipal officials in neighboring DRI towns have been cordial but direct in their comments about the application and the process. Tamworth’s Planning Board, which stated its opposition to the application a year ago, last month asked Effingham to require additional environmental safeguards not included in the site plan application requirements.
There have been similar requests from municipal officials in Eaton and Porter, and the Town of Freedom has called for Effingham to require an Environmental Impact Study, something recommended a year ago by Lakes Region Planning Commission.
As the application process approaches its third year without resolution, patience appears to be wearing thin.
“Effingham seems to have lost control of the process,” said an official of one of the DRI towns upon learning new materials were submitted last week.
The official, who asked not to be named, said the Planning Board has given the applicant two years to create an approvable plan to address the unique environmental challenges of the site, and they have repeatedly come up short.
“At some point the board needs to accept the fact that the application is just not approvable,” the official said.
I Totally Agree, End this!
It is also quite evident that this process by Meena has been TOTALLY DISRESPECTFUL of the voters of Effingham who voted for protection of this water area in 2012. All for greed on their part.
The process has been so disrespectful that the building work began in January 2021, before Meena obtained the building permit. And then he complained that he had to stop the building work and was losing money.
Who else would do it ? Every respectful citizen would wait to get the building permit before beginning any work.
Being wealthy does not enable to ignore the laws.