Ossipee — March 29, 2017 -— A proposal to open a gas station on Route 16 near the intersection of Route 41 in Ossipee has environmentalists and some planning board members concerned about the possible impact on the Ossipee Aquifer. Other people say the gas station could bring needed development to an unproductive piece of property.
After a heated public hearing last week, the planning board continued the discussion to their April 18 meeting, when White Mountain Survey will be able to address concerns and provide an update on state permitting.
The applicant, Tamworth-based Valley Point LLC, owned by Laurie Cushing and Kara Norris, seeks to develop the property at 2400 Route 16 for the purpose of creating a 5,000-square-foot convenience store with eight pumps and a fuel delivery station.
In 2015, the zoning board granted variances from a groundwater protection ordinance to allow a gas station and underground fuel storage tanks on the site. A previous gas station on the site had a spill discovered in 1993. But the site has been cleaned up and the remaining petroleum plume has migrated under Route 41 and a “down gradient” property nearby.
Planning board members said they worry about accidents and spills — especially because West Ossipee Fire Department is a volunteer department that may take some time to respond.
“A small spill can be a big spill in a matter of minutes,” planning board member Dennis Legendre said.
Mark Lucy of White Mountain Engineering assured board members the gas station would meet all requirements in terms of spill prevention, mitigation and staff training.
“Before this station opens, any of these requirements will be met or New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services won’t allow it to open,” said Lucy.
Planning board member Bob Gillette said the newly rebuilt Irving Station at Route 16 and Route 28 near Hannaford’s had upgrades to its safety systems, such as triple-walled piping, and sumps at dispenser stations and between tanks. Those measure were required because its tanks are within 500 feet of Dunkin’ Donuts’ well.
Gillette said the proposed gas station’s tank is 534 feet from the nearest public well at Hobb’s Tavern.
“I wonder if you all are prepared to institute those upgrades to further reduce the risk of spillage or leakage,” said Gillette.
Jim Rines, president of White Mountain Survey, said the systems would be built at least to DES standards and wondered what additional measures the board wanted. He added that every gas station in Ossipee is on the aquifer and that the proposed site is outside the 500-year flood plain.
Blair Folts of Green Mountain Conservation Group, which opposes the station, said if a spill happens, fuel could get into the aquifer even if the groundwater is as deep as 25 feet. She liked the idea of the extra spill prevention systems Gillette had suggested. She recalled there was a substantial fuel spill at M&V Convenience years ago.
“The people across the street (from M&V) were showering, and their shower smelled like gas,” said Folts, adding that spills are expensive to clean up. “You as the planning board have the opportunity to mitigate this before we get in trouble.”
Ash Fischbein, who owns Hobbs Tavern and Brewing Co. and Sap House Meadery, said he understands that protecting the aquifer is important. But he also wants that vacant property to be developed.
“I am very vested in our aquifer as I can it every single day and sell it to the public,” said Fiscbein, who uses thousands of gallons of water in his businesses. “This group (the applicants) are not trying to terrorize our town and aquifer. They are trying to better a property that will help our taxpayers, will help bring jobs and will help a lot of things.”
Fischbein said he has confidence in the experts the applicants hired to make sure the site is safe and environmentally sound.
Other residents worried about the impact the station might have on traffic. Planning board member Roy Barron suggested the driveway onto Route 41 could be left turn only until traffic lights are installed.
“Getting onto 16 from 41 can be a son-of-a-gun,” Barron noted.
The discussion will continue April 18. Among items planning board members asked the applicants to address are fire prevention suppression, a lighting plan showing levels of illumination over the site, and responses to concerns about the aquifer and traffic.
Planning board chairman Condict Billings said that for another town to have abutter status, that town’s selectmen need to appoint a person to be a representative to Ossipee. At their meeting last Thursday, Tamworth selectmen nominated Selectman Steve Gray to represent Tamworth at Ossipee Planning Board meetings about the proposed gas station.
Gray said he knows people in Tamworth on both sides of the debate on the gas station.
“It’s complicated,” said Gray.