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Lebanon Wants More Information Before Development Vote

Lebanon — The Planning Board delayed voting on a proposed major development in West Lebanon at the old quarry site between Route 12A and Route 4, citing a lack of information needed to present a clear picture of what the business park would ultimately look like.

The discussion came to a head when board members were preparing to approve a package of 10 business lots being proposed by property owner Twin State Sand and Gravel, but did not have access to data that they deemed crucial, such as the height of the building elevations and “sightlines” of what the development would look like from nearby residential neighborhoods and Interstate 89.

That lack of information was raised throughout the discussion, including when board members discussed the potential path of the Mascoma Greenway recreational path through the development.

“We’re trying to build a safe route for walkers ... I’m especially concerned about where the bike path is going to go,” said board member Joan Monroe. “I just feel like with this lack of information, that’s an impossible task to do.”

The board requested additional information about what the buildings would look like at the development before it will again weigh the project at its next meeting in March.

Planning Board member Sue Painter pointed out that there are free or low-cost software options available that would have been able to render an image of what the development would look like, and expressed disappointment that there was no such rendering made available last night.

Planning Board Chair Tim McNamara agreed that it would be helpful to be able better understand the full picture of what the development would look like from different vantage points, and get some assurance that the buildings relate well to each other “topographically.”

Rod Finley, of Pathways Consulting who was representing Twin State, admitted to a lack of smaller details — such as window style and building facade aesthetics — but thought the board had sufficient information to vote last night.

An approval from the Planning Board would have cleared the way for the project to be sold to a developer. Individual lots in the industrial planned unit development would have only been subjected to additional review by the board if the building’s footprint changed significantly, according to Lebanon Senior Planner David Brooks.

In the time since the board last weighed the project, the plan was consolidated from 10 lots into an industrial planned unit development, which would also allow for more space to be used for retail than would have been permitted under the previous site plan.

Over its full build-out, the proposed 92-acre Iron Horse Park development would house offices, restaurants, industrial building, and retail space — including a 150,000-square-foot big-box store.

The board also voted in favor of recommending that the city take over the responsibility for maintaining the numerous roads in the development, should it be approved.

With Planning Board endorsement, the City Council will only need a simple majority to approve the city maintaining the roads, which include three of the five within the development. Without the endorsement, the City Council would need a two-thirds majority to assume responsibility of the roads.

The roads endorsed by the Planning Board include Iron Horse Park Road, Glen Road Extension, and Elm Street West — all three connect the development to Route 12A and Route 4. Elm Street West would provide gated access to the development for emergency vehicles.

In arguing for the endorsement, McNamara said that the city should be in charge of plowing roads because it is anticipated they will have a high volume of traffic. He added that the city would control over both sides of the emergency access gate, and that the taxes from the development should offset the cost of maintaining the roads.

Planning Board member Earl Jette said in his estimation, the taxes would not offset the cost of paving, repaving, and curbing existing roads.

But Planning Board member Ken Morley said that most of the repaving and digging up of the roads around the city have been a result of the combined sewer overflow projects necessitated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

In other business, the Planning Board approved a cell phone tower to be contained in a 125-foot-tall flagpole structure to be built at the Dartmouth Regional Technology Center property in Centerra park off Route 120 by a vote of five to three. Board members Nicole Cormen, Monroe, and Painter voted against the proposal.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.

CORRECTION

This article has been amended to correct an earlier error. The following correction appeared in the Wednesday, Feb. 13 edition of the Valley News:

Lebanon Planning Board member Sue Painter initially referred to the availability of low-cost or free software to render three-dimensional images of proposed developments. An article in yesterday's Valley News spelled Painter's name incorrectly on first reference and misstated who made the initial observation about the software.