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Lebanon Weighs Developer’s Offer

West Lebanon — Developer David Clem suggested that instead of making the Crafts Avenue extension public, he would privately maintain his planned Crafts Avenue extension, one piece of the 38-acre River Park project to the west of Route 10 in West Lebanon, at the Planning Board’s meeting Monday night.

“I’m perfectly willing to make this a private road,” he said. “It gives me control of how it’s built and maintained.”

Clem’s proposal came during the board’s conceptual review of his request to narrow the width of the right of way for his planned residential road extension.

Because the right of way for the existing portion of Crafts Avenue is 40 feet, Clem requested that the city consider reducing the 50-foot width for his planned extension, approved by the board in 2011 in accordance with the city’s standard for new roads.

“The city’s recommendation makes sense in the abstract,” said Clem. “I’m just asking if it makes sense in this case.”

The city has previously reduced right of way widths for roads in private developments, including The Falls, off Route 10, and Rock Ridge, formerly Sleeper Village. Rights of way contain the road itself, as well as sidewalks, utilities, drainage and space for undertaking maintenance without first getting permission from individual landowners.

Lebanon Senior Planner and Interim Zoning Administrator David Brooks said the city would like to see the road constructed to its standards regardless of whether it is publicly or privately-owned. He said that because the decision to make roads public lies with the City Council, “nobody knows” whether a road will be public or private in the future.

Clem said applying the city’s standard 50-foot right of way for the Crafts Avenue extension would create a “no man’s land” between the lot lines and the street.

He expressed concerns that property owners might forget that a portion of their land could potentially be used by the city to conduct maintenance on its infrastructure.

“All of us should know exactly where our property lines are,” he said.

Crafts Avenue resident Derek Tsakiris told the board he would prefer not to see a sharp contrast between the residential characteristics of the existing road and the new extension.

“I think the street is doing its best amidst the patchwork that it is,” said Tsakiris. “To perpetuate contrast more, I think, would be a bad thing.”

He said his biggest concern for the road is the speed of traffic and he said he would oppose anything that would widen the roadway.

Planning Board Chairman Tim McNamara did some calculations aloud, adding 24-feet of roadway to five-feet of sidewalk. He found that within a 40-foot right of way, the city would still have 11 feet of space to conduct its maintenance activities.

McNamara said that while a 50-foot right of way is the city’s universal standard, on a flat site such as this, that width may be unnecessary.

City Engineer Christina Hall said the city’s main concern is that it can’t predict “what other utilities are going to be going in there in the future.”

Should work need to be done, Hall said, it would be costly for the city to obtain permission from individual property owners.

“In the future when you have to get back in there to redo it, it’s a much bigger deal to come in on someone’s property,” she said.

Planning Board member Greg Schwarz said he supported the city’s standard.

“It’d be good for the city to have the ability to utilize the right of way,” said Schwarz.

At the same time, however, Schwarz said he didn’t anticipate the city needing to use its right of way in the near term because Clem plans to bury the utilities beneath the roadway.

In response to Clem’s suggestion that he might make the extension private, McNamara said he worried that if the public portion of the road ended before Clem’s cul-de-sac, drawn to end with a roundabout, the city would have trouble removing snow.

“It’d be better to have the city have the whole thing,” he said.

Clem suggested moving the roundabout from the end of his proposed extension to the boundary between the existing road and the extension, allowing snowplows to do a loop.

“We’re happy to look at more conceptual plans,” said McNamara.

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