Forum, March 11: Lyme Voters Should Consider Impact of Rezoning Proposal

Monday, March 12, 2018
Consider Impact of Lyme Rezoning

On Tuesday, Lyme will vote on a petition brought by the owner of three parcels of land on Route 10 to rezone the land from rural to commercial. Some may feel approval of the amendment will ease the town’s tax burden. Possibly, but studies have shown that tax reductions from commercial development are minimal, and are often outweighed by negative effects on quality of life. The Planning Board’s decision to recommend against the amendment was due to the failure of the landowner to provide an analysis of the impact of the amendment, and was reached after thorough consideration following a lengthy public hearing.

In considering how to vote, it might be useful to realize the amendment does at least two things:

1. The original site plan approval by the planning and zoning boards came after the buildings were already built. The approval was based on the grandfathered commercial status of a pre-existing business at the site, but that use was a low-key tractor repair shop with one employee, while the proposed new uses are office buildings to be occupied by some 45 employees with parking for 50-plus cars. The amendment enables the petitioner to leapfrog the problem stemming from the flawed site plan that has sent the case to litigation now pending in Superior Court.

2. It puts the question of the future of this property in the hands of the landowner and petitioner for the amendment. We would have to rely on this landowner to always have the best interests of the town at heart, but in reality, it offers a path to possible onerous development, especially if the landowner decides to sell the property.

A vote against the amendment retains for the town more say in what happens in the area of Route 10 south, and protects a key tenet of Lyme’s Master Plan: the inestimable value of living in a town free of commercial sprawl along its rural and scenic gateway.

Karen Menge


Make Use of District’s Existing Stages

I attended the annual Lebanon School District meeting at the Lebanon Middle School auditorium/gym. I found the argument for building an auditorium and stage at the high school ironic; the nine School Board members were seated directly in front of our new middle school stage in a room big enough to host the high school graduation ceremonies, and four of those nine board members had not supported moving this $30 million proposal forward.

Lebanon has only 5,280 taxpayers. Each contributes approximately 60 cents of every tax dollar to education. Those tax dollars currently support two SAU-owned stages (the Seminary Hill auditorium and the Lebanon Middle School auditorium/gym). Students already travel to the Lebanon Opera House for rehearsals; they can just as easily be transported to the middle school stage or the SAU offices’ auditorium at Seminary Hill.

Also contained within this $30 million proposal is sidewalk construction for the middle school. Several years ago, the city obtained a grant to build the sidewalk. The grant would have offset a significant tax burden for taxpayers. Because the school district failed to utilize those grants, the money was forfeited and we taxpayers are now being asked to fund the entire project.

For now, finding a way to share the two existing SAU-owned stages and auditoriums with the high school student body seems a better way to build a sense of community than spending $30 million that will be raised from only 5,280 of the city’s residents. In the meantime, the School Board can undertake a new analysis of its true needs versus its wants and give more consideration to those who contribute 60 cents of every tax dollar to support its projects.

I will vote against Article 2 on the school ballot on Tuesday.

Georgia A. Tuttle

West Lebanon

Support Lebanon School Modernization

As a parent of three kids who have attended the Hanover Street School, and now the middle school, and soon the high school, I wholeheartedly support the school modernization plan. I will be voting yes on Tuesday on Article 2 of the school ballot.

The plan includes new entryways, cafeterias, and classroom and office space, along with improved (and safer) drop-off areas at all four schools, all long-overdue fixes. But the plan also involves the construction of an auditorium at the high school, which I have heard described as a “luxury.” I disagree. I think back to my own high school, also a public school in a town like Lebanon, where the auditorium was in constant use — for school assemblies, band concerts, plays and musicals, debate competitions, award ceremonies, parent nights, talent competitions, speakers, etc.  The auditorium served as a performing arts space for the students, but was also a gathering place for the school and community.

To those who think of the auditorium as a luxury, would the same be said of a computer lab or football field, the gymnasium or tech ed studios? All of these extracurricular spaces, like an auditorium for music and theater, play an integral role in developing the intellect, imagination, strength, character and confidence of our children. Attracting families to Lebanon (and keeping families in Lebanon) means updating our schools and offering the enrichment opportunities in the arts as well as in STEM fields that are crucial not only to a healthy and well-rounded student body, but to our community at large.

My vote is in support of the amazing teachers and administrators who work in subpar conditions with inadequate space and aging facilities. My vote is in support of the performing arts in our schools, where music, chorus, and theater enrich the learning environment and boost our kids’ confidence, imaginations and creativity. And my vote is in support of the city of Lebanon, which is a thriving, growing community, but which needs modern schools to keep up with it.

 Kristin O’Rourke


In Favor of Mascoma School Budget

I am writing to urge voters in the Mascoma School District to vote in favor of the proposed school budget on March 13.

Note: The proposed budget is less than the default budget.

Also, I am thrilled that Philip Smith and Daniel Kiley are both running for re-election for the School Budget Committee. Both frequently asked very important questions during the budget meetings and their participation was very valuable. Lastly, I want to commend Scott Sanborn for his excellent leadership of the Budget Committee. He welcomed questions and comments from staff, budget committee members and the public.

Helen Skeist