Effingham—May 24, 2023—In a special hearing last week, Conway developer Meena LLC presented its plan to pump gas again at the former Boyle’s Market on Route 25, a commercial activity that was abandoned by the previous owner in 2015.
As Effingham’s Planning Board, members of the public, and an array of attorneys watched, Mark Lucy of Horizons Engineering highlighted the company’s site plan, the most recent version of a document that was first submitted two years ago.
Planning Board Chair George Bull asked Lucy if the plan was for a “good” gas station, a “better” gas station or the “best” gas station, to which Lucy replied, “best.”
Referring to the company’s stormwater runoff plan, Lucy said the intent was “to do all that is possible on this small site to remove anything harmful from the stormwater before it can hit the native soils.”
Lucy’s presentation was bolstered by the fact that the Planning Board’s independent consultant, North Point Engineering, recently signed off on the new plan after finding three previous versions were flawed.
The improvement in documents appears to be the result of collaboration between Horizons and North Point during a court-ordered stay of the board’s proceedings from last October to mid-April this year, when the stay was lifted.
After Lucy’s presentation, critics of the proposal pointed out that even a plan for the “best” gas station doesn’t change the fact that the site itself, rather than the equipment and operating protocols, is what creates long-term risk to the Ossipee Aquifer, the region’s source of drinking water.
After the attorney for Meena’s abutting residential property owners asked that geoscientist Dr. Robert Newton be granted equal time to respond, saying the board would benefit from his “valuable insight” before it reaches a final devision, Meena attorney Matthew Johnson argued against the idea.
Johnson said he had researched Newton’s credentials, and he offered the board a list of things that Newton is not: not a state-licensed engineer, not an architect, not a septic system expert and not a land surveyor.
“Newton has zero relevant experience and should have no standing in these proceedings,” Johnson concluded.
Newton, who was sitting in the audience but was not planning to speak, was given 15 minutes to respond by Board Chair Bull.
He briefly discussed the nature of the site, which is a recharge area for the aquifer where the already porous soil was made more vulnerable to contaminants by years of being mined as a gravel pit.
As for Meena’s latest plan, Newton said among the issues he has with it is that the design of the bio-retention basins will violate state regulations. That prompted an angry retort from Lucy, who called the accusation “reckless.”
Bull said he would allow Newton to submit a written assessment of the application by May 25, and would allow Horizons to respond prior to the next hearing on June 6, at which time public comment will also be permitted.