Saturday February 2, 2013

WALPOLE, N.H. -- A group of citizens has gotten a proposed ordinance onto this year’s ballot in an attempt to ensure a system of checks and balances for any business in town dealing with hazardous materials.

Bennett Daviss, a former Walpole Planning Board member, made a proposal in early January that he said will be an additional provision in the town’s existing zoning ordinance.

Daviss told the Reformer if a simple majority of voters approves it, the provision will require businesses dealing with hazardous materials and waste to include plans for soil and water monitoring and spill response in their site plans. He said passage would force the Planning Board to hire an independent engineer to review all plans from any such business and compare the information with best practices in the field and advise the board about the plans’ quality.

He said motivation behind this effort was fueled by Jiffy Mart’s decision to move its location a mile south along Main Street. According to Daviss, the business is "moving closer to the center of the town’s commercial district and it’s doubling in size." He said the Jiffy Mart, which handles gasoline, will be very close to an aquifer, which is near one of Walpole’s two water wells.

Daviss said he was on the Planning Board when Champlain Oil (which owns the Jiffy Mart) proposed the move last year. He said he and several other members of the community were surprised and disappointed the board did not insist the company go to extraordinary measures to monitor the protect soil and water from contamination.

"Many of us thought it was rather shocking that the board was not exercising the power it has to ensure safety," Daviss said, adding that proposing the ordinance was no one’s preferred alternative.

He said there was a public hearing on the issue of the ordinance on Tuesday, Jan. 8, as required by state law, but the Planning Board voted not to endorse the ordinance by a 4-3 vote. According to official minutes, board members Henry Fletcher, James Aldrich and Peter Kenney and Jamie Teague, the Board of Selectmen’s representative to the planning board, voted against it.

Paul Wamsganz, a construction project manager with Champlain Oil, said the new location is under construction now and he hopes it will open by mid-May.

"We are fully-permitted and we’re complying with all the conditions of the proposal," he told the Reformer. "I think we were well-received (within the town)."

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.