NEWFIELDS — A controversial proposal to expand the town water district about 1,700 feet to the intersection of Routes 108 and 85 passed a vote of the town at a meeting of the water and sewer district on Monday night by a vote of 39-17.
Proponents of the bill, including members of the local fire department, said it will help with fire protection services in that area of town and will encourage the growth of commercial business in the largely residential community.
At the center of the controversy is a proposal by Scott and Jim Mitchell of Tropic Star Development, LLC doing business as Canis of Newfields, to build an Irving gas station and convenience store near that intersection.
The proposal goes before the planning board on Thursday for formal site plan review.
Following the vote on Monday, Jim Mitchell, vice-president of Tropic Star, said he is happy for the community. He said the developer will be footing the bill to extend the water line the 1,700 feet to their development, and will only recoup a small amount of the cost from user fees from those who tie in over the next 10 years.
“We are just very, very excited for the community. It is going to increase people’s land value, and we are happy to foot the expansion to bring it down,” Jim Mitchell said.
He said they would have been able to continue the development with or without town water and sewer.
A similar proposal put forward last year that included expanding the sewer district and covered a longer distance failed to pass.
Selectmen later learned they did not need voter approval to expand the sewer district and did so independently.
Mitchell said they will be extending the water and sewer lines at the same time at a cost of a about $100,000.
Water and sewer district moderator Allen Taylor said he expected more dialogue on the subject before the vote, but the only question asked was about what the vote was on.
Taylor is a 40-year resident of Newfields, and ahead of the vote said he thought it was a no-brainer.
“The developer is going to pay to run the water up there, our fire department and fire protection is important, so for that reason alone,” Taylor said.
Newfields fire Lt. Jeff Feenstra said having effective water protection near the Rockingham Junction is of particular concern as the C-3 terminal in Newington considers the export of propane from their facility and through Newfields by rail.
Feenstra is also a planning board member, and said Newfields is unbalanced in terms of residential versus commercial development. He said some additional commercial development should help ease local taxes.
Resident and chairman of the board of selectmen Selectmen Chairman Michael Woodworth said he is happy with the vote and believes the expansion will be a good thing.
The site the Mitchells are proposing to develop is the former home of an auto body repair shop that has been vacant since about 2001.
An area of about 5,500 square feet on the 1.47 acre property has been identified as being contaminated by chemicals related to coal tar. Canis of Newfields is seeking approval from the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services for a Brownfields clean-up application.
They propose removing about 1,650 tons of contaminated soil and disposing it off-site through ESMI of Loudon.
On Dec. 27, a public notice announcing the remedial action plan was published in the Exeter Newsletter.
EndPoint, LLC on behalf of Canis, has also applied for a “covenant not to sue” eligibility determination, which is a means of redeveloping contaminated properties.
The property owners so far have conducted some groundwater sampling for volatile organic compounds and other chemicals, taken soil samples from the former floor drain discharge point, completed four test pits and one trench with soil samples collected and analyzed them for arsenic and chromium, completed 18 different borings to delineate coal tar extents and reviewed and discussed the steps taken with DES.
There are currently no known impacts to groundwater.
Canis and the property owner has agreed to set aside $125,000 in escrow as part of the property transfer for the soil remediation.
Scott Mitchell also owns the Irving Gas Station in Durham and has plans to redevelop the current Durham Town Hall into a pharmacy when the new town hall is complete. The Mitchells also recently re-developed the former Yoken’s property in Portsmouth.