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Slayton Hill Plan Gets Board’s OK

Lebanon — The Planning Board has approved the city’s request to remove trees and stone walls from the edges of the scenic Slayton Hill Road.

Severe erosion and property damage caused by flooding along Slayton Hill last July spurred the city’s proposal.

The goal of the planned improvements is to increase the size of the road’s drainage ditches and culverts so that they will carry rainwater from a 100-year storm, instead of the 25-year event they were previously built to withstand, according to the city’s application to the Planning Board. For example, of the 22 culverts along Slayton Hill, 11 are undersized.

Due to Slayton Hill’s scenic road designation, the city needed approval from the Planning Board before removing trees and stone walls along the roadside. Engineers expect improvements will require the removal of 88 percent of the stonewalls on the road’s lower end and 44 percent on the upper end.

City Manager Greg Lewis told the board at its meeting on Monday that he aimed to keep the project on track to begin in May so as to “have a good start” before next winter.

Board member Kenneth Morley inquired as to whether city officials had offered to replace the trees that the city plans to remove.

Lewis said that replacing trees had not been discussed with landowners.

“Perhaps the residents didn’t realize they could ask for that,” said board member Joan Monroe.

She also stated that “trees hold a tremendous amount of water” and that she could think of other areas in Lebanon where the city has replaced trees in the past.

Lewis said the city will continue to have discussions with individual landowners and that the subject of replacing trees could “certainly” be considered.

“I think there are opportunities to look at this,” said Public Works Director Mike Lavalla.

Slayton Hill repairs — totaling $6.4 million — make up more than half of the $10.3 million in storm recovery projects the city has planned following last summer’s floods. The City Council will hear public comment on all eight of the planned recovery projects at its meeting Wednesday.

Funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are expected to cover a bit more than half of Slayton Hill’s reconstruction cost. The city plans to pay for the remainder through a combination of debt and allocations from an unassigned fund balance.

Debt repayments for improvements to Slayton Hill are anticipated to drive the property tax rate up 9 cents per $1,000 of value in 2016. That’s an additional $22.50 annually on a property valued at $250,000.

The project also earned a thumbs up from the Conservation Commission, said Commissioner Susan Almy in a phone interview ahead of the Planning Board meeting Monday.

She said she found the city’s decision to switch from plastic to cement culverts particularly encouraging and said that the commission urged the city to try to avoid transporting invasive species during construction.

Overall, she said, she was supportive of the city’s efforts to improve drainage in what she described as a “very, very wet” area.

“It looks like they’re doing the best that they can do with that hill in terms of trying to get the water off in smaller chunks,” she said.

The board’s vote was moved to Monday when it failed to have a quorum for its previous meeting on March 24.

Voting members included Monroe, Morley, Lawrence LeClair, Chris Armen, Gregory Schwarz and City Council Representative Suzanne Prentiss. Vice Chairman Earl Jette, a Slayton Hill resident, recused himself from discussion of the project and Chairman Timothy McNamara was absent.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on storm recovery projects, including planned improvements to Slayton Hill, on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in its City Hall chambers.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.