×

W. Lebanon Apartment Plan Passes Early Review

  • An artist's rendering, center, of a proposed 31-unit apartment building on Main Street in West Lebanon, N.H. At left is the Mascoma Savings Bank building. (Courtesy Twin Pines Housing Trust)

  • An artist's rendering of a proposed 31-unit apartment building on Main Street in West Lebanon, N.H. (Courtesy Twin Pines Housing Trust)



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Lebanon — Aside from concerns about parking, Planning Board members allowed a proposed Main Street apartment project to move forward on Monday.

Twin Pines Housing Trust hopes to construct the 31-unit building on land that currently makes up the Mascoma Saving Bank parking lot. It would stand at four stories tall and include first-floor office space for Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, a nonprofit that provides social services to families.

“We think this is an incredibly great location for affordable housing,” said Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines, during the Planning Board’s conceptual review, a preliminary step in the approval process that does not include a vote from the board.

He said the neighborhood provides plenty of businesses in walking distance, along with the Kilton Public Library next door and an Advance Transit bus stop.

Winter told the board the building would also help alleviate the need for affordable housing in the Upper Valley, where there is a high demand for rental properties.

The building would provide a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, Winter said. Plans currently call for three units to be offered at market rate. Another three would be restricted to people making 30 percent of the median area income, 16 units would go to those making 50 percent and the remaining nine units would go to people making 60 percent. Winter said those plans can still change before the building opens. 

According to the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority, a two-income family earning $34,320 make 60 percent of the median area income in Grafton County. The project is being financed by funding from the authority and will qualify for low-income tax credits, Winter said.

“This is a project where folks have to have income,” he said, comparing it to more heavily subsidized units.

While people still need to be able to afford rent, those payments will be affordable to low- and moderate-income families, he said.

Some board members were concerned the building may not have adequate parking space. Twin Pines plans to acquire two parcels on Tracy Street and demolish two houses to build a lot behind the bank building.

When construction is complete, 58 parking spaces will be available for bank visitors and employees, residents and staff working at Child and Family Services.

“The parking spaces don’t really seem to add up,” board member Kenneth Morley said.

Winter said he expects the building’s residents to be demographically similar to residents of Twin Pines’ new buildings in White River Junction. There, people own about one car for every two units.

The nearby businesses and access to Advance Transit could also steer residents away from car ownership, he said.

“This is a location where people hopefully don’t have to have a car,” Winter said.

Board member Carl Porter said he takes his two children to events at the library at the same time the bank holds board meetings, which makes for a difficult parking situation.

“I do see the potential for there being an extreme peak but not a frequent extreme peak,” he said.

Winter said Twin Pines estimates the proposed parking lot is capable of being shared. Residents, customers and bank and office staff aren’t parking at the same time, he said.

Walter Moore, who owns Mountainview Chiropractic Center next door, said he’s opposed to the building partially because of its size.

“It looks like a giant prison complex,” he said, adding the development is not “in harmony” with the neighborhood.

With little room for more commercial development along Main Street, Moore said, the site would better serve as a place for businesses, rather than for housing.

The proposed building’s 40-foot height is five feet lower than the city’s height limits, said Winter, who added that it’s only one story taller than Moore’s building and more than 40 feet away.

Developer David Clem, who renovtaed the former West Lebanon Library building, said the city should understand the mix of people living nearby and better study the need for housing before the project goes forward.

“My perception as a property owner and as a developer, is that West Lebanon doesn’t need any more auto parts stores. It doesn’t need any more tax preparation outfits,” Clem said, adding more market-rate units likely would be a better fit. Clem is developing the nearby River Park mixed-use development, which will include market-rate apartments.

Planning Board members also asked Twin Pines to keep historic trees and nearby wetlands in mind when developing the site.

The completion of the conceptual review of the project on Monday opens the door for a future site plan review as the project moves forward.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.