Planning Board Document Revives Gas Station Construction Issue

Effingham—July 31, 2023—The question of who authorized the construction of a gas station without required approvals at the former Boyle’s Market in Effingham has resurfaced as a result of the Planning Board’s conditional approval of the development’s site plan.

The construction question, thought to have been resolved long ago, was raised anew by the issuance of the Planning Board’s “Findings of Fact,” a list of just under 100 items that the board used as the basis of its July 11 decision.

Item 12 of the Findings of Fact states that the developer began installing underground gasoline storage tanks and related equipment “in the spring of 2021 with the Town’s Board of Selectmen’s approval.” The Findings of Fact are embedded in the board’s Notice of Decision, signed and dated July 13.

While it has long been known that the developer installed the underground portion of the gas station without a variance, a building permit or an approved site plan, the claim that the Select Board authorized the illegal work is new—and surprising, since the Select Board issued a cease-and-desist order to stop the work.

Effingham resident Blair Folts asked about the claim at last week’s Select Board meeting, saying that since the Notice of Decision is a town legal document, if there is no documentation for the claim in Item 12, Town Counsel should ask the Planning Board to remove it as a Finding of Fact.

Installation of a gas station at the former Boyle’s Market in 2021. The question of who authorized the work was reopened by the Planning Board’s “Findings of Fact,” on which the board based its recent conditional approval for the development. DES Photo

Select Board member Chris Seamans downplayed the concern, saying “A statement was made by a former selectman, and that’s what the document reflects,” adding that even if the information is wrong, it doesn’t mean the entire Findings of Fact document is wrong.

Folts clarified that she was not questioning the entire document, just Item 12.

Seamans, who is the Select Board’s representative to the Planning Board, went on to elaborate, asking Folts to imagine that at one of the gas station hearings at the elementary school, he said he saw a purple elephant run though the gymnasium.

“Does that mean a purple elephant ran through the gymnasium? No, but the [Findings of Fact] document would have to reflect that,” Seamans said.

Town Administrator Audrey Fraizer said she spoke with the former selectman who made the claim about the Select Board granting approval for work that had not been approved by the Planning Board. He said the comment may have been “a conversation in passing,” according to Fraizer. The former selectman was not identified by name.

Fraizer said that Effingham’s Town Counsel confirmed there is “nothing to substantiate” the claim that the Select Board authorized any construction. Select Board members told Folts she should take up the question with the Planning Board, whose own attorney signed off on the document.

Several emailed requests from Ossipee Lake Alliance to the Planning Board asking how Item 12 came to be listed as a Finding of Fact in the Notice of Decision were not answered. 

A Contentious Issue
The illegal construction work on the gas station was a contentious issue for most of 2021. After the ZBA granted a special exception for the development, review of the site plan was delayed when it was determined a variance was needed because gas stations are prohibited at the site.

The property owner and his agents, contractor Mark McConkey and real estate agent Jim Doucette, asked town officials for permission to start the “digging portion” of the construction while waiting for approvals, promising that no equipment would be installed.

After several weeks of unsuccessful lobbying, Doucette informed ZBA Chair Theresa Swanick by email that work would begin without approval because the workers would not be available again “for months,” calling it a “difficult decision.”

By the time the town issued a cease-and-desist order, the installation of underground gas tanks, piping and related equipment was complete except for final backfilling and paving. The developer was never fined for the illegal work.

The Planning Board’s July 11 conditional approval of the gas station is subject to the developer complying with a number of “conditions precedent,” which must be met before additional work can proceed.

The Planning Board meets this Thursday, August 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the Town Office.

An online resource center on the gas station issue is at


  1. Steve Foley 12 months ago August 1, 2023

    It seems a fine is in order for proceeding without proper permits, documents; the very tangible proof of approvals. If so fined, the money should be held in an account to be used only for remediation of a gasoline chemical spill of lake polluting proportions; as liability insurance monies will quickly dry up and the ultimate cleanup, if ever a real possibility, will then fall on the permit issuance parties, the town.
    Just saying.

  2. Ruserious 12 months ago August 1, 2023

    Foolish decisions made and consequences that are yet to be seen will scar this community for decades to come
    Good job effingham


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