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Board Vote on Slayton Hill Plan Delayed

Lebanon — A legal step to advance the Slayton Hill reconstruction plan Monday night had to be postponed until April 14 because there weren’t enough Planning Board members present and eligible to vote on putting the proposal before the City Council.

While inconvenient, the postponement isn’t likely to delay the probable May start date for removing trees and stone walls along the notoriously flood-prone road, which is protected by special restrictions.

Changing the contours of the road, and improving the drainage in other ways, will help meet 100-year storm standards, deemed necessary after a July 2013 thunderstorm caused millions of dollars in damage.

Under the scenic road destination, making changes in the public right of way requires the publication of two notices in a newspaper of general circulation, once each week for two weeks, at least seven days prior to the public hearing.

“Two board members were absent and two others had conflicts of interest, so out of an abundance of caution and a desire for total transparency, the city manager suggested we delay the vote, because nobody wants any legal challenges in the future,” said Sue Prentiss, an alternate City Council representative who sat in the audience during the meeting.

“Earl Jette and his mother own property on Slayton Road, and Tim McNamara sits on the Twin Pines board, which oversees the Rivermere affordable-housing complex,” City Manager Greg Lewis said. “After some discussion, the board decided it was probably best they recuse themselves, but then there weren’t enough members present for a quorum.”

Jette is vice chairman of the Planning Board; McNamara is chairman.

“The Slayton (Hill) Road homeowners already know what is involved, and it’s not a business opportunity, but the way the law reads, I have a pecuniary interest in the outcome of this plan,” said Jette.

Lewis said the decision to delay was simply to be cautious.

“Because of the amount of money involved, from FEMA and other sources, we can’t have this turn on rules of recusal sometime down the road,” said Lewis. “We’ll wait until there are five members present who can consent — we need a formal legal anchor.”

City officials and engineers from Massachusetts-based consulting firm Fay, Spofford & Thorndike have already met one-one-one with individual homeowners and landowners to discuss easement particulars.

Jette said road redesign won’t affect the value of his property one way or the other, as he’s “only losing a couple of saplings.” Waterways on his mother’s heavily wooded property are slated to be widened and deepened, he said.

City Councilor Nicole Cormen said the delay was yet another reason to encourage people from the community to consider joining the Planning Board, which meets twice a month.

“We need people to volunteer," Cormen said, noting “you don't have to own property, you can be a renter” to serve on the board.

The next regular meeting is April 14, at which time an in-depth presentation on the Slayton Hill Road reconstruction plan will be shown and voted on.

CORRECTION

A Lebanon City Council vote in 1993 designating Slayton Hill Road as a "scenic road" protected the stone walls and trees along its right-of-way. Additionally, Lebanon residents are eligible to serve on city boards wihtout any waiting period. Eligibility requirements for board service and the origins of the road's scenic designation were described incorrectly in an earlier version of this story.