Lebanon Takes On New Roads: City Agrees to Adopt Development's Streets

Lebanon — The City Council last night unanimously approved as public roadways three streets to be located within Iron Horse Park, a proposed 92-acre development between Route 12A and Route 4 at the Twin State Sand and Gravel quarry site.

The approval represents an important step for the development, which has long been under review by city officials. But there are still hurdles left to clear: Last night’s decision applies to a subdivision of the project that was approved by the Planning Board last year. A separate application involving 10 of the 13 proposed lots will be discussed by the Planning Board on Monday.

Over its full build-out, Iron Horse Park would encompass offices, restaurants, industrial office space and retail buildings — including a 150,000-square-foot big-box store.

City staff had recommended that the council accept as public roads both Glen Road Extension and Iron Horse Road, which would be the main thoroughfare through the development. Because Iron Horse Road would pass through three zoning districts — commercial, industrial, and residential — it would be in violation of the city’s codes if it were a privately owned street.

In a council memo, city staff stated that the acceptance as a public road would solve the zoning problem, and that it also made sense because the roads interconnect with existing roadways.

According to Lebanon Senior Planner David Brooks, Iron Horse Road and Glen Road Extension together would add slightly more than a mile of new roadway for the city’s paving and snow-plowing operations. He said that Iron Horse was about 5,000 feet long, and that Glen Road Extension was 543 feet.

Public Works Director Mike Lavalla said before the meeting yesterday that, based on rough estimates, it costs the city about $100,000 for overlay paving on one mile of road. For winter maintenance, he said, the cost for a mile of road is about $4,400 annually.

The Planning Board voted in February to recommend that the council accept Iron Horse, Glen Road Extension and Elm Street West Extension as public roads. It recommended that the council not designate as public roads Industrial Drive and Cut-Off Road, two other streets to be built within the development, because the roads would primarily serve traffic within the development.

As Iron Horse Park is developed, Elm Street West Extension will be gated to regular traffic, but open to emergency vehicles and public works crews. Lavalla explained at last night’s meeting that the department had not taken a position on whether the council should accept that road, but he assured councilors who were concerned with his department’s ability to plow a gated street that his crews would be able to either turn around at the gate or open the gate and plow straight through.

“This will work, we will get it to work,” he said. “The way it’s set up now, we can turn around. And we may just, in the event of a winter storm ... open the gate.”

The City Council also decided to authorize the city manager to sell a half-acre lot of city-owned property located at 3 Seminary Hill. The land is located on a steep slope on the edge of one of the city’s busiest intersections at Seminary Hill and South Main Street, and features a building constructed around 1830.

Suzanne Prentiss, the City Council representative to the Public Facilities Committee in charge of guiding the property through the sales process, said that the building on site had been condemned and contains asbestos. She expressed concern that it would be costly for the city to demolish the building.

There was discussion about the ability of the property to be part of the proposed Mascoma River Greenway, a four-mile recreational path that would connect downtown to West Lebanon. City Councilor Erling Heistad argued that the property offered a chance to ease the path down the steep slope of Seminary Hill, which would provide a gentler grade for senior citizens and young children.

Prentiss said that while she was “very respectful of having a walkable, bikeable city, at the same time, you have to balance this with revenue generation.” She added that the city has not collected taxes on the property in 18 years.

The half-acre lot was assessed in 2011 at a value of $120,800. Heisitad was the sole councilor to vote against the motion that authorized the city manager to sell the property.

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