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Planning Board scales back West Lebanon housing development

  • A rendering of a townhouse-style home in a proposed 22-unit development near Route 10 in Lebanon, N.H. (Courtesy Pathways Consulting)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/30/2021 9:26:00 PM
Modified: 3/30/2021 9:25:57 PM

WEST LEBANON — A developer’s plans to build a combination of single-family homes and duplexes near Route 10 in West Lebanon were scaled back by city officials who worried this week that the project was too densely configured.

Jeff Shapiro, the owner of the West Lebanon-based Great Eastern Radio group, requested city permission to build 22 units on roughly 5 acres off of Oak Ridge Road as part of a rental development he’s calling Occom Path.

But the Planning Board voted, 5-3, on Monday night to deny that request, saying instead that he should stick to the 19 units allowed under Lebanon’s regulations.

“This should be a single-family home development,” Planning Board member Katie Romano said before suggesting that Shapiro remove three duplexes planned for the development.

Replacing those with single-family homes, she said, would reduce the number of cars expected at the property and create a “little bit of extra open space between units.”

Longtime Planning Board member Joan Monroe agreed, calling renderings of Occom Path “very tightly packed.”

Fewer units would mean “less traffic, less people” and give residents more space, she added.

Monday marked the start of specially scheduled Planning Board meetings devoting additional time to the Occom Path project, which was initially proposed in 2018 for a site that has housed a commercial radio tower.

Since then, it’s received the OK of the city’s Zoning Board, and the Lebanon City Council recently approved the sewer and water connections Shapiro will need to build.

He envisions a mix of duplexes, two-story single-family homes and one-story houses lining a looped road — also called Occom Path — behind the Wheeler Professional Park.

Each unit would consist of three bedrooms, and residents would be allowed two parking spaces. Designs also show eight shared spots that would be available to guests on a first-come, first-served basis.

Shapiro would retain ownership of the property, which he said would allow for easier conflict resolution between neighbors and residents, should problems arise.

“It will be one phone number, one ownership group and one set of laws that will apply,” he told the Planning Board.

But those reassurances failed to appease neighbors who are staunchly opposed to the project. They argue that the new homes would result in more traffic, leading to problems at the Oak Ridge Road and Route 10 intersection and resulting in parking problems on adjacent streets.

Jan Bent, who lives in the nearby Pinewood Village condominiums, pointed out that it took about six years to reconfigure the intersection with a crosswalk and warning lights after the 2010 death of a Pinewood Village pedestrian.

The area still isn’t perfect, she said, as northbound drivers frequently cross the center lines to turn into Oak Ridge Road.

“I would hope that somebody would look at this intersection again,” she told the Planning Board.

A traffic study performed in October found that the Occom Path project would add no more than 26 cars to the road during the busiest commuting hour.

Consultants from Resource Systems Group, a firm in White River Junction, also found that the development “will not cause unreasonable congestion or unsafe conditions on the local roadway network.”

Neighbors said the project would be out of character with the surrounding area.

Rand Swenson, who lives on Oak Ridge Road, wrote in a March 4 email to the city that proposed houses and duplexes would be “squeezed together,” leading to questions about where overflow parking would go and where snow would be moved to in the wintertime.

However, Rod Finley, an engineer with Pathways Consulting working on the Occom Path project, pointed out that its proposed 22 units would be slightly less dense than Pinewood Village.

The project, he added, would be located across the street from Wellspring Worship Center and within an area made up of a mix of uses.

Shapiro added that the development isn’t an apartment block and wouldn’t loom over surrounding buildings. He’s previously said rent would be “market rate,” with monthly payments under $3,000.

“We’re trying to bring something very, very different to the city of Lebanon, a housing project that would be a landing place for new young families or retirees before they might potentially move into the next stage of their community life,” he said.

The Lebanon Planning Board will continue to discuss the project — and new designs — during its May 17 meeting.

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




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