Published by The Conway Daily Sun
Effingham—June 21, 2023—Residents from around the region recently urged the Effingham Planning Board to deny Meena LLC’s request to build a new gas station on the former Boyle’s Market site.
A lengthy June 13 planning board meeting, which ran from 6:30 to about 9:10 p.m., was mainly taken up with public comment on the controversial project, which some say could threaten the underground Ossipee Aquifer.
At the meeting it was decided to do a site walk on June 19 at 6:30 p.m. The planning board was to meet Tuesday, after the Sun’s press deadline, to discuss the project.
Monday’s site walk was brief, but planning board members and several members of the public were able to get the lay of the land from Mark Lucy of Horizons Engineering and Jim Doucette of Jim Doucette Real Estate.
During the site walk, planning board chair George Bull delineated to Ossipee resident Rich Fahy where the “bio-retention basin” would be located. The basin would filter storm water.
After the site walk, Billie Lunt of Ossipee indicated that Phillips Brook is downhill and about 220 feet from the proposed gas station and said she was concerned gas could get into the brook that feeds Ossipee Lake.
Perhaps the most unusual part of the June 13 meeting was when Wolfeboro resident Bobbi Boudman took to the mic to oppose the project with an empty gas can as a prop and a water filter along with a Thermos and pitcher. She ran diesel through the filter. Then while at the mic, she poured water from the Thermos into filter that drained into the pitcher.
Boudman’s “experiment” was supposed to be analogous to Meena’s proposed stormwater filtration systems, which representatives billed as the best possible. Boudman said the project puts Effingham Elementary School students at risk of drinking contaminated water.
“It is a $60 filter,” said Boudman. “And at the end of the meeting, I would love for all you guys to have a glass of water.”
Lucy said he offered to drink the water, but said Boudman “didn’t want me to actually sip the water.”
The project is controversial because Dr. Robert Newton, among others, has said the project sits on a sensitive part of the Ossipee Aquifer, and according to some critics, is too close to a public well that would serve the store and also serves nearby apartments.
Newton, who is the principal of Geocience Solutions LLC, has been retained as an expert by the abutters.
Effingham resident Blair Folts read into the record a letter from Ossipee resident Tammy McPherson, an abutter and previous plaintiff in lawsuits over Meena.
“We currently have a 2-year-old and a set of twins that are only 2 months old living with us. We want to know if our drinking water won’t be safe for them,” said McPherson’s letter.
Biron Bedard of Ransmeier & Spellma, who represents abutters McPherson and William Bartoswicz, Green Mountain Conservation Group and Ossipee Lake Alliance, told the board there are several legal justifications for denying Meena’s project.
“In your site plan review regulations, you folks are charged in the purpose section, among other things, with protecting the public health, safety and welfare,” said Bedard.
Freedom Conservation Commission member Jeff Nicol read a letter from the Freedom Board of Selectmen.
“The proposed water and oil separation system raises significant concerns. It is essential to recognize that our region has experienced a notable increase in the frequency and intensity of rain events,” said Nicol.
Ossipee teenager and abutter Stella Lunt asked the planning board to deny the project. She noted Boyle’s is a school bus stop.
“This affects you, it affects me, and this affects the future the water in this town,” said Lunt. “Once it’s contaminated, it will not be safe drinking water again.”
Madison Planning Board member Jay Buckley spoke as a resident but delivered the news that most of Madison’s planning board members would oppose the project if it were before them in Madison.
“I ask the planning board to seriously consider rejecting this application based upon that risk that Dr. Newton pointed out to you,” Buckley said.
Lucy said Meena is trying to make the best gas station possible.
June 13 was the last meeting where oral public comment could be taken. Letters can always be sent to the planning board, said Bull.