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Lebanon board approves Dartmouth’s plan for 300-unit apartment complex

  • Developers have proposed constructing a 309-unit development to house Dartmouth College graduate students in four apartment buildings on Mount Support Road in Lebanon, N.H. (Courtesy City of Lebanon)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/23/2020 9:27:17 PM
Modified: 6/23/2020 9:27:15 PM

LEBANON — Plans to build 309 apartments for Dartmouth College graduate students near Route 120 in Lebanon were approved Monday night by city officials, who wrapped up a monthslong review of the project.

The Planning Board voted, 5-1, to allow construction of four four-story buildings, a clubhouse and small maintenance facility on Mount Support Road, about a mile south of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Board member Thomas Martz was the lone “no” vote. He worried during the roughly two-hour meeting that stormwater from the apartment complex could affect nearby properties.

“There are many things about this project that I really like but until this one issue can be resolved, I just can’t vote in favor,” he said.

The board’s decision should allow Michaels Student Living, a New Jersey-based developer chosen by Dartmouth to build and manage the apartments, to break ground this summer.

The college, which owns the vacant 53-acre parcel slated for construction, “is excited about this important step forward in the process,” spokeswoman Diana Lawrence said in an email Tuesday.

The $50 million housing complex will cater to Dartmouth’s 2,154 graduate students but also will rent to DHMC and college employees. Overall, the apartments will have 638 bedrooms, which would be rented out by the bed, according to the developers.

Michaels has said rents would be similar to Dartmouth-owned Sachem Village in West Lebanon, where prices range from $1,100 a month to $2,225.

Plans initially called for 557 parking spaces, which would be arranged in lots surrounding the development. However, the Planning Board decided Monday to limit the complex to 556 spaces, one fewer than proposed.

Board members said the project should stay within existing parking regulations and pointed out that the Lebanon Conservation Commission and Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission both wrote letters earlier this year expressing concern with a large number of spaces.

“I just think that this application has a very large number of surface parking spaces and I’m just drawing the line,” Planning Board Chairman Bruce Garland said.

City Councilor Jim Winny countered that Michaels would operate a shuttle for commuters going to Hanover and DHMC, so much of the parking wouldn’t contribute to traffic. He added that Mount Support Road isn’t suitable for on-street parking.

Traffic engineers have projected that development will result in an additional 139 cars on the road during peak weekday hours.

The college also decided to withdraw its request for a conditional use permit that would allow it to build another 25 spaces near a “spine” access road that will run between apartments near an area of wetlands.

The additional parking spots would have required an additional Planning Board review, even if the permit was approved Monday, according to Lebanon Senior Planner Tim Corwin.

The Planning Board, which started its review in March, was under pressure to make a decision this month to meet the developer’s construction deadlines.

Michaels hopes to start work this year, have a rental office ready by 2021 and have tenants settled in for the start of Dartmouth’s 2022 academic year, according to Concord-based attorney Phil Hastings, who wrote to the board urging it wrap up ahead of a June 8 meeting.

Still, things appeared to be moving too quickly, according to former City Councilor Steve Wood, who called in to Monday’s meeting.

“I’m not weeping bitter tears for the difficulties that DHMC and Dartmouth are having on their time frame when Lebanon has historically borne the brunt, borne the weight of our hasty Planning Board decisions,” he said before asking officials to continue to hold public hearings.

Wood’s statement drew a rebuke from Hastings, who said “criticism of the board isn’t warranted” and began to talk of the “voluminous” materials city officials have considered in the past few months.

But Planning Board member Laurel Stavis said the Dartmouth proposal was no different than other developments, some of which have taken longer to receive a decision.

“The decision that we make will be with this city for decades to come,” she said.

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




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