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Dartmouth Coach Seeks to Revamp Old Site



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Lebanon — Dartmouth Coach is hoping to accommodate its growing operation by building a new maintenance facility at the site of its old Etna Road terminal.

Officials with the company presented preliminary plans to the Lebanon Planning Board on Monday night to construct a 96-by-110-foot building that would house the Dartmouth Coach’s fleet of buses when they're in the Upper Valley.

The facility, which would be able to hold six buses, also would serve as the home of Dartmouth Coach’s cleaning and maintenance operations in the city. The new building would sit alongside an existing maintenance garage, according to plans submitted to the city last month.

“That maintenance bay was constructed in 1998, when we had 40-foot buses, and mini-coaches and vans,” said Peter Stanley, project manager for Dartmouth Coach, during the conceptual meeting on Monday night.

The building proposal comes just two months after the company purchased a 7.6-acre property on Labombard Road from the Lebanon Elks, which is slated to become a parking lot for Dartmouth Coach customers.

Increased use of the company's Labombard Road terminal has put pressure on Dartmouth Coach to continue expanding in Lebanon, officials wrote in a letter to the Planning Board.

The new terminal opened in late 2016, a year after Dartmouth Coach purchased the 6-acre parcel from the owners of the former Miller Chevrolet and Cadillac dealership for $3.7 million.

The new building opened with an expanded waiting area and more parking in a location closer to Exit 18 off Interstate 89. However, officials said, outdated facilities at the old Etna Road terminal became a problem.

Dartmouth Coach has updated its fleet with buses larger than the old terminal was designed to support, he said, and cleaning and heating the space became more difficult over time.

The space can only hold two buses, as is, and Dartmouth Coach’s fleet currently stands at 16, with a potential for more coming soon.

“We will add one or two buses over the next few years, as we add service,” the company said in its letter to the Planning Board.

Board members on Monday appeared to support the building plans, saying they would require more design details before issuing a final approval.

“All inclinations are it’s a good concept,” said Planning Board Chairman Keith Davio.

“This is just a concept, mind you. We’ve got more to go,” Stanley told the board.

The plans for a maintenance facility come after Dartmouth Coach paid $1.2 million to purchase a nearby property from the Lebanon Elks Club.

The parcel, which is now home to Elks Field, would be turned into a parking lot for 250 to 300 cars, under a proposal floated to the city last summer.

The sale also allowed the Lebanon Elks to rebound from financial difficulties the club acknowledged in February 2017.

The Elks used the money to pay off federal and local property taxes, as well as the club’s mortgage, according to a March newsletter written by Scott Merrihew, the head of the Elks.

Merrihew wrote that about $683,000 was placed in a savings account for the Elks, while $100,000 was set aside to pay off other debt obligations. The Elks also have resubmitted paperwork to restore their nonprofit status, with the help of Lebanon accountant Jay Simms.

Messages left for both Simms and Merrihew were not returned on Monday.

The sale came after a months-long lobbying effort to stop the city from rezoning  the Elks property from light industrial to high-density residential. 

At the time, Dartmouth Coach and Elks officials argued the change would make it more difficult to obtain the permitting needed to construct the proposed parking lot. City officials countered that construction on the site likely would require hearings before the zoning and planning boards regardless of how it ended up being zoned.

Dartmouth Coach has yet to submit final plans for the parking lot, Lebanon Planning Director DavidBrooks said in an email on Monday.