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Lebanon Group Home Proposed



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lebanon — An Enfield-based nonprofit that provides housing and support services to people with special needs is proposing a new group home in downtown Lebanon.

Visions for Creative Housing Solutions is planning to purchase two apartment buildings at 12 Green St. and convert them to housing for developmentally challenged adults. Plans for the conversion will be presented to the city Zoning Board next week.

The project comes as more people seek access to the downtown neighborhood and its amenities, said Sylvia Dow, executive director of Visions.

The nonprofit already has a group home in Enfield, but residents there often make the trip into Lebanon for classes, work and shopping, Dow said. There’s also a growing waiting list for those seeking housing, she said.

“So, we thought it would be really nice to have an Enfield model in town and in Lebanon,” Dow said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Ten people live at Visions’ Sunrise Farm in Enfield, which opened its doors to those with special needs in 2014. The property once was a working farm that had been in Dow’s family since 1954, when her parents, John and Erna Kluge, purchased it.

The Kluges, who migrated to the Upper Valley from Germany, ran an inn and four-unit hotel on 80 acres there. After their deaths, Dow and her family continued the business until 1997, when it became their private home.

The most independent residents live in studio apartments at the farm in Enfield, while those needing more assistance have private rooms. True to its name, Sunrise Farm also has a vegetable garden, chickens, turkeys, a horse, cats and dogs.

Social Security pays for residents’ room and board, while money for assistance — such as food preparation, house cleaning, budgeting and medication management — comes from Pathways of the River Valley, a nonprofit that supports people with developmental disabilities and brain injuries in Sullivan and lower Grafton counties.

Like the Enfield farm, the new group home in Lebanon would offer support services and is expected to house about 10 residents, Dow said. There also would be space set aside for communal dinners and a shared living room.

“It just gives a really nice social connection for them,” she said of the proposed shared space. “The model is really that they become each others’ support network.”

In Lebanon, the two apartment buildings sit on the ⅓-acre lot downtown. The structure closer to Green Street contains four two-bedroom apartments, while the building in the rear of the property consists of two three-bedroom units.

Under Visions’ plan, the two-bedroom apartments would each be occupied by two residents who would live independently but with the support of 24/7 staff.

One of the three-bedroom apartments would be occupied by two residents with greater needs, along with a Visions staff member. The remaining apartment would be shared space for all residents.

The property is currently owned by F&A LLC, which is based in Wolfeboro, N.H., and was last assessed at $409,000, according to city records.

Dow said talks to purchase the property are ongoing. But, if all goes well, she expects a sale will be finalized and renovations complete by fall 2019.

“We’re just really excited to start working with the city of Lebanon,” she said. “It’s such a wonderful community with friendly people.”

If approved, the group home downtown would be Visions’ second project in Lebanon. The nonprofit also aims to support residents in an apartment building planned for Tracy Street near the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon.

Four units out of 29 there will be earmarked for people with special needs, said Andrew Winter, executive director of Twin Pines Housing Trust, which hopes to break ground on the Tracy Street apartment building next month.

“Obviously, it’s something we’re excited about,” Winter said on Tuesday.

While the Upper Valley is facing a shortage of affordable housing, those seeking group housing are also having difficulty finding a home, Winter said. Across the region, he said, people are attempting to find ways to create supportive communities for those with disabilities.

Dow predicts the Green Street group home will be a good neighbor to others on the residential street, which is just a short walk away from Colburn Park and downtown businesses.

“All of our residents work; they give back to the community; they volunteer,” she said. “We really try to be involved in the community.”

Residents at Sunrise Farm use the CCBA’s Witherell Recreation Center, attend classes at the AVA Gallery and participate in community events, such as Old Home Day, Dow said. She predicted those living in Lebanon would likely do the same.

Neighbors of the proposed home said on Tuesday that they would welcome Visions to downtown Lebanon.

“I think it would be awesome,” said Barbara Teeter, who lives at 7 Green St. and volunteers at Visions. “I have no objections to having a community home on my street.”

Doreen Schweizer, who lives at 14 Green St., agreed, saying the proposal sounds “terrific.”

George Armstrong, who lives at 4 Green St., also said the change shouldn’t adversely affect the neighborhood.

“I would have no problem with it at all,” said Armstrong in a phone interview.

The Zoning Board is scheduled to discuss the group home proposal when it next meets at 7 p.m. on Monday in Lebanon City Hall.

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