City plans infrastructure by airport

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/13/2019 9:55:57 PM
Modified: 9/13/2019 9:55:45 PM

WEST LEBANON — City officials hope that new roads and expanded public infrastructure near Lebanon Municipal Airport could drive a high-tech boom in West Lebanon.

The city plans to set aside 86 acres of undeveloped land on the airport’s west side for more than a dozen new buildings off Airport Road. Lebanon would also create a tax increment finance district to help pay for upgrades.

The special district allows New Hampshire municipalities to use property tax revenue obtained from new development for infrastructure projects. Once the bonds for construction are paid off, the district reverts to general tax rolls and any additional money in the TIF fund is transferred to general accounts.

Lebanon Mayor Tim McNamara said the new development could produce enough tax and lease revenue to someday cover shortfalls at the nearby airport, which continually operates at a loss.

“We have really been focusing on the airport recently,” he said, adding that the proposal follows moves to raise rents and landing fees. “We’re looking at the property a lot more closely now.”

The TIF district would encompass two properties, a 49-acre parcel owned by Lebanon and a 36.8-acre lot owned by Upper Valley Tech Park LLC.

Both are just south of the existing airport industrial park and are zoned for light industrial use.

Williston, Vt.-based DEW Properties, which owns Upper Valley Tech Park LLC, applauded the move in a Sept. 5 letter to the city, saying similar TIF investments allowed them to develop a 9,500-square-foot medical office building in Penacook, N.H., as well as other structures in Vermont.

Lebanon predicts it will cost about $2.6 million to build roadways, sidewalks, water and sewer lines and drainage improvements. City officials say they plan to first work on its 49-acre property. Upgrades to the Upper Valley Tech Park-owned parcel would come later.

If one building is constructed every three years, the city says it could recoup those costs by 2030, according to a presentation posted on the city’s website.

Overall, the two properties could support up to 14 new buildings averaging 24,000 square feet each.

Plans to develop the city-owned property date back to the 1980s and originally included proposals to build a road around the entire runway, said Steve Wood, a former city councilor who co-owns Poverty Lane Orchards east of the airport.

“Fortunately, nobody looked at the ground,” Wood said, adding the route would have run over wetlands and steep terrain.

Wood, who has long been wary of development in Lebanon, also expressed skepticism that the proposed TIF district would help reduce taxes, saying that hasn’t proven true with other large projects in the city.

But of all the places to develop, he said, the west side of the airport is one of the more palatable options because of its proximity to Route 12A and other businesses.

“What (development) has done has caused our departments — fire, police all the rest of that stuff — to go way beyond what should be demanded for our sized population,” Wood said.

The Lebanon City Council will discuss the proposed development zone during its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 18 at City Hall.If the council approves of the idea, a public hearing would be scheduled for Oct. 2, and a final vote would be taken on Nov. 6.

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




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