Effingham—August 6, 2023—Effingham’s Planning Board will hold a public hearing on Monday, August 7, to discuss two questions regarding the board’s decision to approve a gas station at the former Boyle’s Market.
One question is who should pay for the Planning Board’s legal work in the matter, and the second is whether there is evidence to support the Planning Board’s assertion that the Select Board authorized underground gas station equipment to be installed two years ago without a variance or an approved site plan.
The question about legal payments was raised at the July 25 Select Board meeting during which the town’s budget chair advised the board that the town has overspent its operating budget year-to-date by $52,000.
Effingham resident Blair Folts asked whether the town had invoiced the gas station developer for the cost of the Planning Board’s legal expenses.
She read aloud from paragraph 6.5 of the Site Plan Review Regulations, which states that the applicant is responsible for the “reasonable anticipated cost to the Town of Effingham for the services of the Planning Board’s designated agent, its attorney and engineer.”
While Item 97 of the Notice of Decision requires the developer to pay for the board’s engineering consultant as a condition of the gas station approval, there is no mention of paying for the board’s legal fees.
Select Board members said they did not have any information on the legal bills and suggested asking the Planning Board. That prompted another meeting attendee, Porter resident Corey Lane, to say she had already asked the Planning Board and was told to ask the Select Board.
The Planning Board will also consider on Monday whether to amend Item 12 of the “Findings of Fact” that the Planning Board used as the basis of its conditional approval of the Site Plan Application. The Findings of Fact are embedded in the board’s Notice of Decision.
Item 12 states that the Select Board authorized the developer to start building the gas station in the spring of 2021. It was well known by town officials at the time that a variance had not been obtained from the ZBA, and the Planning Board had not reviewed the Site Plan Application.
Advised of the claim in Item 12 two weeks ago, Select Board member Chris Seamans downplayed it as “just a statement made by a former selectman,” an assertion seemingly at odds with its inclusion as a finding of fact in a document approved by the Planning Board’s attorney.
As reported by Ossipee Lake Alliance in April, emails from 2021 between town officials and Jim Doucette, a real estate agent working with the property owner, show Doucette authorized the underground construction after the developer failed to obtain the town’s approval to start work before the variance and site plan requirements were met.
The construction was shut down by the town just before final backfilling and paving could be completed. No fines were ever assessed.
Monday’s Planning Board meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the Elementary School, at 6 Partridge Cove Road.