By Daymond Steer
OSSIPEE — Following a heated discussion with Green Mountain Conservation Group, the Ossipee Planning Board decided Tuesday continued discussion of a controversial gas station proposal until June 6.
Tamworth-based Valley Point LLC, owned by Laurie Cushing and Kara Norris, seek to operate a 5,000-square-foot convenience store with eight pumps and a fuel delivery station at 2400 Route 16. There will be four 10,000 double-walled gas tanks on the property.
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.
Environmentalists and some planning board members have voiced concern about the station's possible impact on the Ossipee aquifer.
Others say the business could bring needed development to an unproductive piece of property.
At the outset of the meeting, Chairman Condict Billings told Mark Lucy of White Mountain White Mountain Survey & Engineering Inc. to reiterate the information Lucy went over on May 2 as that day's agenda had indicated that Valley Point's proposal would be continued to May 16, and that might have discouraged people from attending.
"A lot of residents did not come on May 2," said Billings. "We'd just like to have it all in public."
Lucy said there would be double-lined fuel lines from the underground fuel tank to the pumps and noted that Valley Point decided to put a larger oil water separator, going from 2,500 gallons to 3,100 gallons.
Consultant Denis M. Boisvert of DB Tank Design said there would be over two dozen sensors in the system to alert staff of any fuel leaks.
The meeting became the most heated when Corey Lane of Green Mountain Conservation Group asked to read aloud a two-page letter listing the concerns GMCG has about the procedure the board has followed.
Among those concerns were the planning board's refusal to grant Tamworth's request for abutter status when the two towns share an aquifer, and the fact that Valley Point was discussed at the May 2 meeting when the agenda indicated the discussion was being postponed until May 16.
The board denied her request to read the letter aloud but did agree to enter it into the public record. Lane and the board then got into a lengthy argument about the contents of the letter.
"I believe you have some 'misfacts' in here, to start off with," said Billings.
For example, Billings said Lane was wrong to say the application was accepted as complete on Feb. 7. He said the board accepted it as complete on April 18.
Later in the meeting, he said Tamworth was not granted abutter status since Tamworth doesn't have zoning and granting abutter status is optional.
He also said that the planning board has put stringent requirements on Valley Point.
Planning board member Roy Barron said he voted against Tamworth's abutter status because when Freedom was given abutter status in the Westward Shores campground expansion, that gave Freedom a leg up in court.
"They are trying to run our town by proxy," said Barron. "I'm a little sick of it."
After agreeing that the letter could be part of the record, the board allowed Lane what was supposed to be a brief opportunity to make her case.
"I feel so special now," Lane commented. "Jeez!"
This provoked alternate planning board member Rick St. Jean to storm out of the room while muttering something about "more trash and misrepresentations."
Planning board member Tim Otterbach said he objected to St. Jean's comments.
Otterbach and planning board member Bob Gillette had argued that Tamworth should have abutter status.
Lane recommended that the board hire an attorney paid for by the applicant to help them with some of the issues surrounding the the gas station proposal.
She also called for them to hire consultants to do an independent site review as they had with the proposed Westward Shores campground expansion.
"This gas station has not been allowed in this area for a reason," said Lane. "Because these variances were issued, we are standing here today."
Billings said they have talked to an attorney about aspects of the gas station proposal.
Billings and Lane then argued about whether Valley Point was on the May 2 meeting agenda or not. Lane said the May 2 agenda indicated Valley Point's case was "continued to May 16," but Billings said the copy of the agenda he had said something else.
Lane wondered how people were supposed to know what the planning board was up to when the agenda posted on the town website was unclear. Lane said the May 2 agenda that the planning board members had must be different than the one on the town site.
"We meet twice a month, and if they are really interested in it, then they come every time until the case is settled," said Billings. "I am not going to allow this kind of denigration to us."
Lane replied, "For the record, the public has to attend every planning board meeting to understand what's going on. We cannot rely on the agenda posted on your website."
Billings added that's why he had Lucy repeat what he presented May 2. Billing said at the April 18 meeting, the planning board decided Valley Point would be discussed May 2.
"You were here (April 18)," said Billings. "You were gabbing so you didn't hear it."
Resident Joyce Watson said she heard at the April 18 meeting that there would be a meeting with Valley Point on May 2 but no public comment would be accepted except from White Mountain Survey.
But Billings said the public may speak at any meeting.
"There was a lot of confusion," said planning board member Dennis Legendre. "I'm not going to say you couldn't have been confused by it because I think everybody was a little confused until the very end."
Otterbach moved to continue the discussion to June 6, and the motion carried.