Lebanon Adds Developer Fees

Lebanon — Much of nonresidential development slated for Lebanon in the next 20 years — some 2 million square feet of office, industrial and other commercial space — could be subject to new fees that will generate revenue for the city’s recreational facilities.

The charges added to the city’s schedule of “impact fees” were approved by the Planning Board last Monday with little debate .

Impact fees are a way for cities to recoup the cost of public services — such as police protection — extended to new development via a one-time charge calculated by square-footage. Lebanon has charged the fees since September 2010.

Paul Boucher, president and CEO of the Lebanon Area Chamber of Commerce, had not heard of the new impact fees as of Friday, but said the recreational charges for non-residential development could be a “deal killer” for new projects in the city.

“We’re looking for economic vitality,” Boucher said. “We’re inviting people to come and participate in the business community, and it’s just another hindrance for them to come in.”

The addition of recreational fees — ranging from 5 cents per square-foot for nursing homes to 18 cents for offices and commercial services — will be used to fund the Mascoma River Greenway project, a 4-mile trail network connecting downtown to West Lebanon.

An 100,000-square-foot retail and restaurant complex, for instance, would be charged $11,000 in recreational impact fees.

Boucher said that is an “excessive cost,” though he stressed that Lebanon businesses are very much in support of the Greenway.

Nicole Cormen, the City Council representative to the Planning Board, said that the new fees may burden development to some extent, but she countered that development often adds to the cost of city services.

“Business is good and we want to encourage more business, but the more people you have in a place, the more wear and tear there is on you name it,” said Cormen. “It’s just a fact of life. And in New Hampshire — with not having an income tax ... or a sales tax — we have very few means at our disposal to deal with these things.”

The assessment of impact fees occurs when developers receive approval from the Planning Board, but the fees are not collected until the developer is granted a certificate of occupancy.

That means projects that were approved before last Monday and after impact fees were initially established in September 2010 would fall under the original fee schedule.

However, if a previously approved site plan is significantly modified — or if five years passes between the board approval and the submission of a building permit application — the revised fee schedule adopted last week would apply.

Lebanon Senior Planner David Brooks said that River Park, the 840,000-square-foot commercial-residential development slated for West Lebanon, is exempt from impact fees, as it was submitted to the Planning Board prior to the board’s adoption of the fee schedule on Sept. 13, 2010.

However, any building permits obtained for the River Park projects after the five-year window would be subject to whatever impact fee schedule is in place at that time.

That same scenario applies to the 92-acre Iron Horse Park development — which would include offices, restaurants, industrial space and retail buildings — but city planners anticipate that many of that development’s site plans will change prior to construction, which could trigger the new impact fees depending on the scale of modification.

Lebanon Director of Planning and Zoning Andrew Gast-Bray stressed that the new fees are being used to fund a recreational resource that both residents and businesses will access.

“Life is 24/7 now, and people are at work at different areas and they’re recreating at lunch or they run in the morning and they go shower at work — it’s just a new lifestyle and we love it,” Gast-Bray said. “Businesses want that as accessible to them as to anybody else, and they’re contributing their portion to that.”

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