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Lebanon Board Wants Details On Sawmill Expansion Plan

Lebanon — The Meriden Road sawmill at Lebanon’s town line with Plainfield will sit idle at least until spring, awaiting city approval of additions to the main building that would house modernized equipment.

Citing a need for more specific details about the extent of the project, the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Monday night deferred until March 3 a decision on the request from G.H. Evarts and Company of Springfield, N.H., to build additions totaling 6,000 or 7,000 square feet at the north and south ends of the 30,000-square-foot building. Even with the go-ahead from the zoning panel, the project — which the company says will not lead to more activity at the site, just make the mill safer and more efficient — will need to undergo a review by the Planning Board.

“We’ve been shut down since the end of the summer,” company president George Evarts said after the zoning board’s public hearing. “We had 16 people working there. They’re working in other parts of our operation for now.”

The city’s zoning administrator denied G.H. Evarts and Company a permit on Dec. 20, ruling that the sawmill, which sits in a residential zone between Meriden Road and Great Brook, constitutes a non-conforming use that requires a special exception from the zoning ordinance.

On Monday night, administrator Carmela Hennessy explained that the board is the most appropriate body to rule on the technicality — to either overrule her decision, or to uphold the decision and then decide whether to grant a special exception.

Meriden dairy farmer Rob Taylor said that his operation relies upon the sawmill as a source of wood byproducts that his cows use daily.

“Approximately 50 head of our young stock is nestled in a pile of Evarts sawdust right now,” Taylor said. “It’s an essential part of our operation.”

Lebanon nursery owner Norm Longacre similarly praised the sawmill.

“We have been procuring product from this sawmill going on 40 years,” Longacre said. “It would be a shame for it to close down.”

Pointing to the city’s own improvements of its public works garage, police station and middle school in recent years, Longacre added, “There comes a time when you have to upgrade.”

Board members said that the panel needs first to protect the interests of residential neighbors.

“If you’re building 50,000 square feet,” said William Koppenheffer, vice chairman of the Lebanon Zoning Board of Adjustment, “it will have an impact.”

G.H. Evarts bought the sawmill from the Abenaki Timber Corp. in 1996. In addition to the building housing the sawmill equipment, the site includes sheds and buildings for storage of sawdust and for administrative offices.

The mill also stores logs, sawdust, wood chips and pallets outdoors.

Abutter Reuben Cole said at the start of the public hearing that he hopes the approval process doesn’t take too long.

“I’m 90 years old,” Cole told the board, “and I think it was there a long time before that.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dacorriveau@gmail.com and at 603-727-3304.

CORRECTION

William Koppenheffer is vice chairman of the Lebanon Zoning Board of Adjustment. An earlier version of this story accidentally omitted his first name.