The following article was published by The Conway Daily Sun.
Effingham—June 23, 2023—A proposal to turn the former Boyle’s Market site into a gas station appears poised for a planning board decision at their July 11 meeting.
Meena’s proposal is to build a new gas station at the former Boyle’s Market at 41 Route 25 in Effingham.
The proposed gas station has been the subject of controversy for years. After the zoning board gave the project a variance, abutters, Green Mountain Conservation Group and Ossipee Lake Alliance, sued. A Superior Court judge upheld the variance.
At the June 13 meeting, area residents strongly objected to the project. Many believe it poses a particular threat to the Ossipee Aquifer because of the area’s unique topography.
At the meeting, one of Meena’s principals, Prince Garg, spoke out to say that he wants the gas station to be safe and environmentally sound.
“We are not unresponsive or uncaring people,” Garg said.
The planning board discussed what conditions should be imposed on Meena for site plan approval. The list is to be formalized and voted on at the next meeting on July 11 starting at 6:30 p.m. at Effingham Elementary School.
The conditions that the planning board will consider were arrived at through a series of lengthy meetings this spring.
Attorney Chris Boldt said he would review his notes and come up with a list of conditions for the planning board’s next meeting. At this meeting, no more public input will be taken.
None of the planning board members seemed eager to deny Meena’s approval, but the members, by consensus, seemed to agree that conditions would need to be met before they would sign off on it. Based on the planning board’s discussions, the following appear to be some of the conditions the board may impose at its July meeting:
• Testing for volatile organic compounds is to be conducted quarterly at the public water well that serves the store and nearby apartments. Such compounds, known as VOCs, are chemicals involved with gasoline and diesel.
• Testing for contamination will take place to determine if a stormwater mitigation system called a bio-retention basin will require an impermeable liner at the bottom.
• A copy of documentation from the state Department of Environmental Services stating that the state agency is comfortable with the distance between the fuel tanks and a well that serves the store and apartments.
• More detailed plan maps of the site.
Garg said Meena would have “no problem” with VOC testing at the well. He asked repeatedly that the planning board be clear about exactly what they are asking Meena to do.
Meena’s attorney, Matt Johnson, asked why the planning board was seeking a reconfirmation from DES about the well’s distance since DES has already signed off on it.
“What happens if DES in their gigantically friendly bureaucratic way, says, ‘We’re not giving you anything else, we gave you the permit’?” asked Johnson.
After some discussion, the planning board decided it just needed a copy of the DES approval rather than a letter from DES confirming the approval.
Boldt described why the board was concerned about the well’s distance. He said during the public hearings there was an assertion made, rightly or wrongly, that the public well was approved after the 2015 Boyle’s Market gas tank closure and before the new tanks were approved. It was unclear to some people if DES was aware that gas tanks would be reinstalled near the well.
“We’re just doing belt, suspenders and rivets, that the tanks being approved and the well being approved know each other,” said Boldt using a lawyer’s terminology for redundancy.
Based on advice from Boldt, Chairman George Bull allowed public comment at the end of the meeting but said it would be limited to three points of discussion, testing for VOCs, testing of the soil under the bio-retention basin and the distance between the well and the fuel tanks.
David Riss of Madison said there should be testing for VOCs after floods. He said the old Boyle site is a poor location for a gas station.
“I think this area is a terrible fit for this with the wetlands nearby,” said Riss. “I just think that we’re going to get more and more of these floods and spills and things like that because of the climate change.”
Bull said the planning board is trying to address the issue of testing within the confines of the rules they have to work with.
Effingham resident Karen Payne agreed with Riss.
“I just want to say that if/when those volatiles show up in that well, it’s probably too late,” said Payne. “So, please, don’t sleep well knowing that just because we’re testing, we’re not protecting.”
Corey Lane of Porter, Maine, criticized a map of the site that was on display, and Bull replied the planning board would get a better map before the project gets approved.
Some members of the public seemed to drift off-topic. For example, Jeff Wright of Parsonsfield, Maine, criticized the board’s waiving a requirement for a landscaping plan.
This prompted an objection from Johnson.
“Is there a listening problem?” asked Johnson rhetorically.