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Lebanon Housing Authority pitches apartment building at Heater Road site

  • An artist’s rendering shows Lebanon Housing Authority's planned 44-unit apartment building at the intersection of Heater and Old Etna Roads, across the street from the Lebanon High School softball field. (Courtesy City of Lebanon)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/2/2020 9:56:12 PM
Modified: 6/2/2020 9:56:06 PM

LEBANON — A three-story apartment building that would cater to Lebanon’s entry-level, retail and service-sector workers is being pitched for the corner of Heater and Old Etna roads.

The 44-unit structure, located across the street from Lebanon High School’s softball fields near Route 120, is part of the Lebanon Housing Authority’s efforts to increase the city’s stock of affordable housing.

Ditha Alonso, the public housing agency’s executive director, says the region needs more rental units accessible to those who can’t afford current “high-end” offerings.

“We’re targeting these folks that really are the backbone of the community,” she said. “These are the folks that we get to enjoy when we go to our favorite restaurant and to shopping.”

Alonso added that Lebanon’s vacancy rate remains under 1%, meaning even those who can pay high living costs are struggling to find homes.

“There’s pretty much a full house in Lebanon,” she said. “There isn’t a place to be found to rent for the low- to moderate-income folks.”

Upper Valley housing advocates and local business leaders have long warned that there are not enough homes to meet the region’s needs.

For instance, there were 284 rentals on the market within 25 miles of Lebanon last fall, but 937 full-time job openings, according to a November presentation by real estate agents Buff McLaughry and Lynne LaBombard.

And many of the offerings available are too costly. Studios in the area range from $888 to $1,100 a month, while a two-bedroom apartment might be found for $800 to $2,450, according to information compiled by Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dartmouth College.

Rent at the proposed building, which would be called Heater Landing, for a one-bedroom may fall between $650 and $800 a month, Manchester-based attorney Megan Carrier told the Zoning Board on Monday night.

The housing authority is seeking Zoning Board approval to build its new apartments within Lebanon’s residential office district. If approved, the organization would apply for federal tax credits to woo investors to the project.

The new development would target individuals making roughly $19,000 to $51,000, or a two-person household with annual earnings between $22,000 and $59,000. Unlike many of the housing authority’s existing properties, rates will be established when construction is finished and remain in place regardless of a family’s income.

“People really do have to come into the game with an income source,” Alonso said.

Renderings of the housing authority’s proposal show an angled building painted in earth tones and sporting a rounded, central entrance. The lot would have 69 parking spaces, with five reserved for handicapped spots, accessible in the rear of the property.

The building would contain 31 one-bedroom units, 11 two-bedroom apartments, and three three-bedroom units, according to plans submitted to the city.

The housing authority also intends to build a sidewalk along Heater Road and upgrade an Advance Transit bus station already utilizing the parcel.

“So we do think the development will be attractive and it will certainly serve a need in the community,” Jeff Merritt, with Manchester-based Granite Engineering, told the Zoning Board in a meeting held via teleconferencing software.

However, Zoning Board members expressed concern with traffic.

“The traffic on Heater Road is atrocious,” said board member David Newlove, who recommended connecting the parking lot to an access road owned by Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

Meanwhile, board member Al Patterson said he is concerned about the existing bus stop.

“It obstructs traffic when they let people on and off, and if you’re going to increase the usage of that bus stop it’s going to increase that hazard,” he said.

The board ultimately asked for more information on landscaping before it makes a decision on whether to grant the project a special exception. The development also would require a site plan review before the Planning Board.

The 3.3-acre property slated for development is currently owned by Bayson Hanover Properties LLC, which is headed by Hanover-based developer Bayne Stevenson and his son-in-law, Rob Meyer.

Stevenson, who purchased the lot for $300,000 in 1999, has had a hand in several Upper Valley developments, including the Powerhouse Mall in West Lebanon.

He initially had hoped to build a Hannaford supermarket on an adjacent Heater Road property, but that bid failed before the Planning Board and subsequent court challenges. That site is now home to a Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinic.

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




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