Downtown Lebanon apartment complex gets cheers, jeers at Planning Board meeting

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/12/2022 10:47:13 PM
Modified: 5/12/2022 10:47:15 PM

LEBANON — More than two dozen community members crowded into the Council Chambers at Lebanon Town Hall and at least 29 more joined online as the Planning Board started a lengthy trip through the 152-unit apartment complex proposed by Recreo LLC on Mascoma Street.

The project received support and opposition with many of the detractors focusing on the overall size of the project and questions about parking. Many who said they were not in favor said the project was out of place at a key entrance to the city and for its location on Colburn Park.

Owner Mike Davidson was in attendance and spoke passionately about his drive to create housing that meets people where they are and fits in with the city’s goals to create a walkable and livable downtown.

“We’re not trying to bowl over anyone or pave over anything,” Davidson said, answering critiques of some neighbors. “We’re trying to get people back downtown.”

Davidson said he came to the area “38 or 39 years ago” and listed some of the businesses that no longer exist in the area and said what businesses want before they’ll relocate is enough people to know they’ll be successful.

“Our goal with this density is to reverse that and create a walkable and livable downtown,” Davidson said. “I love Lebanon. We’re not looking to create something that nobody has asked for.”

Two city councilors spoke in support of the project while specifying they were speaking as residents of the city, not in their official capacity.

Karen Liot Hill, whos served on the council for 18 years, evoked the 1970 Joni Mitchell song, Big Yellow Taxi: “It may not be a paradise, but I see this as a chance to reclaim a parking lot. It might be trite to say, but anything would be an improvement.”

And Clifton Below, who is assistant mayor but was speaking as an individual, said he has lived within walking distance from downtown for many years and called the project important.

“It meets many goals of the master plan and fits within our regulations,” Below said. “This proposal is responding to carefully considered changes.”

Others spoke in favor as well, but not everyone was on board.

Resident Mary Ann Mastro has been an outspoken opponent of the plan, saying the conditional use permits sought by the developer related to building height, setbacks, parking and more show the development doesn’t belong in that location.

“I do not believe ... the city should amend its zoning ordinance to benefit the developer,” Mastro said. “And if the developer needs so many (conditional use permits) maybe the site isn’t appropriate for this project.”

Planning Board member Laurel Stavis clarified with the owner of the proposed development that the apartments would be market-rate housing, not “workforce” or affordable housing.

Davidson said the apartments would be “affordable for someone working in town,” and added that the developer has agreed to make 10% of all units “workforce housing.”

Ledgeworks, the managing agent for Recreo projects, announced the plan in an email May 5.

“Beginning this summer, (we) will reserve 10% of our 300 Upper Valley residential units as affordable, workforce housing,” read the announcement, signed by Davidson and Ledgeworks COO Tim Sidore. “We will spread these units across all of our buildings (new and old), on both sides of the river. It is our hope that other owners who can afford to do so will follow suit.”

The hearing, after 2½ hours, was continued until the next Planning Board meeting set for June 13, when the board plans to start moving through the developer’s request for conditional use permits.

Darren Marcy can be reached at or 802-291-4992.

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy