250-unit apartment complex in pipeline in Lebanon, but it needs a hookup

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/3/2019 10:06:14 PM
Modified: 4/3/2019 10:06:23 PM

LEBANON — A Massachusetts-based developer is proposing to build at least 250 apartments marketed to Dartmouth-Hitchcock employees on Mount Support Road, roughly a mile south of the hospital.

The new apartments, which would be built on a 75-acre lot across the street from the Timberwood Commons apartment complex, would enable hospital staffers to commute to work on foot, by bicycle or via bus. It also could help alleviate the region’s housing shortage, according to a March 15 letter from development firm Saxon Partners to then-Mayor Sue Prentiss.

“Our concept is to construct an apartment campus limited to studio and 1-bedroom units, with an initial phase of 250 apartments,” wrote Donald Smith, a partner with the firm.

But the success of the proposed development could hinge on obtaining access to a limited commodity in Lebanon: the sewer system.

Developers predict the project would produce about 12,000 gallons of wastewater per day, yet there are few options to dispose of that waste.

The city’s east end remains under a partial building moratorium created after engineers in 2017 found that a sewer interceptor running to the West Lebanon treatment plant was nearing capacity.

And while the City Council has committed $1 million to expanding its sewer capacity this year, officials believe it could be several more years before the limits are lifted.

Councilor Karen Liot Hill said on Wednesday that the city also has committed to solving the sewer problem, and it’s likely that it will continue to incrementally fund improvements.

Saxon Partners hoped for an elegant solution.

“From our perspective, it would be ideal to tap into the Lebanon system, which has a pipe in front of the site serving the Timberwood Commons apartments across the street,” Smith wrote.

The City Council on Wednesday was generally in favor of the project, but said it could be several months before a long-term sewer study is complete. Only then will the city have a more concrete view of the sewer system’s capacity, they said.

“I think there is recognition that there is a critical housing need in the community and in the region,” said Assistant Mayor Clifton Below, adding that Lebanon has traditionally expressed a preference for developments close to employment areas.

However, if it’s not possible to fit the project into Lebanon’s system, the developers ask that they instead be allowed to tap into Hanover’s.

Lebanon and Hanover have an intermunicipal agreement that allows for wastewater from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Centerra Marketplace and other nearby businesses to be treated in Hanover.

Although the site of the proposed apartments is outside of Hanover and Lebanon’s agreed-upon zone, Hanover might be open to serving the site, Town Manager Julia Griffin said on Wednesday.

“I think what the town would say is it doesn’t really matter to us if the city wants to allocate a percentage of its remaining capacity to an area on Mount Support Road rather than, say, Centerra,” she said in a phone interview. “We only have so much capacity for them, and it’s really up to the city to initiate that discussion.”

City officials would need to choose wisely how much waste to send north, partially because Saxon Partners isn’t the only organization looking to develop the area, Griffin added.

Next to the site of the proposed apartments sits a 53-acre parcel that Dartmouth College is eyeing for additional graduate housing.

Dartmouth Executive Vice President Rick Mills announced in January that the school is looking to either expand housing at Sachem Village, a townhouse complex near Route 10 in Lebanon, or 401 Mount Support Road.

At the time, officials said they would seek to build hundreds of units at the chosen site.

It’s not yet clear when either development might start construction. Dartmouth officials said they hoped to find a private partner for their project this spring.

Meanwhile, Smith told the council on Wednesday night that it could be two more years before the Saxon Partners project could be ready for construction.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

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