‘Lake Weathervane’ vexes drivers traveling near plazas in West Lebanon

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    Felisha Churchill, of Canaan, N.H., walks along what shoppers in West Lebanon know as "Lake Weathervane," a series of potholes and puddles in parking lots and private retail driveways east of Route 12A near the WalMart plaza and Weathervane restaurant. Churchill said she stops in her tracks when a car approaches so that she does not get splashed. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News photographs — Jennifer Hauck

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    A car hits what shoppers in West Lebanon, N.H., call "Lake Weathervane," a series of potholes and puddles in parking lots and retail roads east of Route 12A near the WalMart plaza and Weathervane restaurant on Thursday, May 2, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Jennifer Hauck

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    A truck hits what shoppers in West Lebanon, N.H., call "Lake Weathervane," a series of potholes and puddles in parking lots and retail roads east of Route 12A near the WalMart plaza and Weathervane restaurant on Thursday, May 2, 2019. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/3/2019 9:59:34 PM
Modified: 5/3/2019 9:59:21 PM

WEST LEBANON — Go ahead: Try finding “Lake Weathervane” in tourism brochures and online, the way New Hampshire touts Winnipesaukee and Sunapee and Vermont extols Champlain and Memphremagog.

Good luck, too, locating the rainy days body of floodwater, just east of Route 12A, in your DeLorme’s Atlas & Gazetteer or Google Maps.

For decades, heavy rain and melting snow have tended to swamp the privately owned Martin Drive and adjacent Weathervane Drive, which connect Route 12A with the Weathervane Seafood Restaurant, the Walmart plaza on Interchange Drive and other stores and restaurants. The huge puddles and deep potholes earned the area the Lake Weathervane nickname from patrons and merchants who have to drive through, or walk past, the seasonal hazard.

Some help appears to have arrived recently, at least at the very intersection of the two drives, with the construction of the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet in a parking lot near the restaurant.

During a downpour on Friday morning and afternoon, recently installed storm drains between the construction site and the restaurant funneled much of the water away from the intersection.

But large puddles continued to form along Martin Drive, particularly in a low spot about 40 yards south of the intersection. Runoff on Friday spanned a pockmarked, 30-foot stretch of Martin Drive in front of the plaza containing a Sherwin-Williams paint store and a Salvation Army store, near the Interchange Drive entrance to Walmart. During a late-morning stop at the Martin Drive plaza, Canaan resident Carol Reynolds was glad she was driving a high-riding sport-utility vehicle.

“This might be the most water I’ve seen, and I’ve been coming through for about 30 years,” Reynolds said. “I know I’ve got to go slow when I go through it, but not everybody does.”

Even some of those who do know better nevertheless have been lamenting the state of both Martin and Weathervane drives on social-media for several years.

During a thaw in mid-March of 2018, Upper Valley (VT/NH)Facebook group regular Dale Shriver shared photos of the waterlogged intersection of Martin and Weathervane, with the observation, “Does anyone know the maximum outboard motor horsepower for Lake Weathervane? I assume that it is a ‘no wake’ zone, but wanted to confirm with the locals. Also FYI there are dangerous shoals in this body of water. Do they carry marine navigation maps at Walmart?”

Who is responsible for solving or at least further mitigating the flooding depends on whom you ask.

“We don’t own the road in front of us,” Grantham resident Penny Fletcher, co-owner of the Martin Drive plaza holding the paint store, said on Friday. “It’s owned by the people who own the Weathervane. My partner contacted the owners to ask about them joining us to fix it, and they didn’t even answer.”

Liquor outlet project developer Dick Anagnost is working with the Maine-based family trust that owns the 4.1-acre parcel that includes the Weathervane and the roads in question. At a January 2018 Planning Board meeting, he told the board that he had tried to reach Fletcher and her partner, but did not receive a return call. On Friday, an assistant at Anagnost’s office in Manchester said that the developer was unavailable for comment.

The Planning Board approved the liquor-store project unanimously, after Anagnost and project engineer Bruce Pratt pledged to install a new system of catch basins as well as rain gardens and pipes tying the liquor-store parking lot into the city’s wastewater system. The ongoing work also includes the installation of a curbed sidewalk between Route 12A and the restaurant parking lot, which is just south of the liquor-store site.

“The current site has some issues with stormwater,” Pratt acknowledged during the meeting. “Over 30 years, it’s clogged up. So what happens now is there’s just big ponds in the parking lot.”

On Friday, longtime Planning Board member Joan Monroe remembered voting with reluctance for the project. She described it as yet more of the frustration she shared with the late Nicole Cormen, a longtime Planning Board colleague who also spoke up regularly about development in flood-prone areas all over Lebanon.

“That was a theme song that Nicole and I sang over and over and over again,” Monroe said. “Every time I drive around Walmart, I see the road goes right through a wetland. Right through it. It’s, like: ‘Hello!’ I do not know how that was allowed to happen.”

After plowing his low-slung sedan through the current pond and into the Salvation Army parking lot, Dartmouth College senior Adam Rinehouse declared himself impressed at the depth and breadth of the lake, at least by Upper Valley standards.

“I grew up in northeast Pennsylvania,” Rinehouse said. “The potholes there tend to be substantially worse.”

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.




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