The following story is from the Conway Daily Sun.
Effingham—June 8, 2023—After two and a half hours of discussion Tuesday, the planning board’s public hearing on Meena LLC’s proposed gas station ended by being continued to June 13.
Meena’s proposal is to build a new gas station at the former Boyle’s Market at property at 41 Route 25 in Effingham. The planning board continued Tuesday’s hearing to June 13 at 6:30 p.m. at Effingham Elementary School.
The proposed gas station has been an ongoing controversy for years. After the zoning board gave the project a variance, abutters, Green Mountain Conservation Group and Ossipee Lake Alliance, sued. However, a Superior Court judge upheld the variance.
Tuesday’s meeting drew about 100 people. Some came from neighboring towns including Tamworth, Madison, Freedom and Ossipee. Those opposed to the gas station would occasionally interrupt the meeting with questions or comments.
The meeting was a continuation of a hearing in May when public comment was taken. That May hearing was a continuation of a hearing from October.
Chairman George Bull said he wanted to make clear Tuesday’s meeting wouldn’t be used to rehash the ZBA decision and issues like the location.
“So for example, we can’t just arbitrarily decide that we think this is a bad idea and refuse it. That’s not within our purview,” said Bull.
“A lot of this (feedback) that’s come up and has been brought to the attention of the board is more grievances over the ZBA decision, that decision has been made. That’s not what we’re here to re-litigate.”
The public wasn’t allowed to comment and the discussion was between the board and Meena and also with Bob Newton, who is the principal of Geocience Solutions, LLC, and has been retained by the abutters.
At a previous meeting in May, Newton was allowed to submit a report outlining his chief concerns due May 25. Then Meena was allowed to respond by June 2 and they did.
Much of Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to going through Newton’s letter point by point.
Among his points was that the gas tanks would be too close to a well that would serve the convenience store and some apartments on site. Newton says the tanks need to be 500 feet away, but the tanks would be less than 200.
Meena, in its rebuttal from Horizons Engineering Inc. replied that New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services already determined that the well’s “protective radius” was 125 feet because the site had been a gas station before. That point was reiterated by Mark Lucy of Horizons.
The board’s consultant, Jeff Lewis from Northpoint Engineering, agreed with Horizons.
“As long as they have the necessary permits from DES we weren’t looking for anything further than that,” said Lewis.
Bull agreed with Lewis and added the planning board can’t second guess DES, though Newton said the distance needs to be 500 feet or more.
“I’m not so concerned about what DES rules one way or the other, I’m concerned primarily about the health and safety of the people who are drinking water in that area,” said Newton.
Another issue was the bio retention basin. In May, Lucy gave a detailed explanation of various storm water management systems that Meena would employ at the site.
Deep sump catch basins would discharge into an “oil water separator” device that would discharge the fuel/oil into a vegetated “bio retention basin” which is lined with about two feet of filter soil. Below that would be crushed stone.
Lucy said he’s personally invested in making sure the project is environmentally sound.
“Please understand, I’m a lifelong resident of Carroll County, seventh generation, Carroll County, seventeenth generation New Hampshire,” said Lucy. “I care. My responsibility is to capture, mitigate and discharge stormwater.”
Newton, in his report, argues that the bio retention basin would be located over the “grave” of the former tanks. Allowing water to percolate through the basin might disturb contamination left behind in the soil by the old tanks.
Lewis told the board that Newton made “several good points” in regard to the bio retention basin and asked if it needed an impermeable barrier either on the sides, the bottom or both.
After a lengthy discussion, Bull summarized the end result. He said there were various options for the bio-retention basin that would meet state regulations but the issue it to pick the best one and there are pros and cons to every option.
Meena seemed to agree to side liners.
Johnson said the plan meets all the regulations without a bottom liner.
Lucy suggested a retention basin might not even be the best approach. He said based on Newton’s information it would be better to let treated stormwater run off the site rather than having it sink into the basin.
Bull said apparently whether or not a permeable liner to the basin would be an appropriate safeguard, apparently hinges on whether there are contaminants left over. Testing could be a condition of approval. If there isn’t pollution, a liner would be unnecessary. If there is, then Meena would have to have a plan to address it.
The meeting had to be cut short because the school only allows the planning board to use the building until 9 p.m.
Attorney Matt Johnson, of Devine Millimet asked if the meeting could be held elsewhere because of the time limit but Bull said they need a large space because the meeting has to be open to the public.
Town Attorney Chris Boldt of Donahue, Tucker & Ciandella offered to write up a document outlining the various conditions that the planning board discussed imposing on Meena.
“Once the public hearing has been closed, we’ll discuss in a public meeting what my wordsmithing has done,” said Boldt.