Lebanon and state have deal on rail yard

  • Mike Lemieux, owner of Pine Hill Construction, demolishes the sandhouse at the historic Westboro Rail Yard in Lebanon, N.H., on Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021. Once the property is cleaned up city officials hope to lease the land from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation in order to turn it into a park. (Valley News / Report For America - Alex Driehaus) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Alex Driehaus

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/19/2022 9:24:10 PM
Modified: 9/19/2022 9:24:14 PM

WEST LEBANON — City and state officials cleared a potential path toward the creation of a riverfront park in West Lebanon after reaching a tentative agreement last week for the sale of seven acres of riverfront property to Lebanon for recreational use.

Last week, City Manager Shaun Mulholland, Mayor Timothy McNamara and Christine Fillmore, the city’s attorney, met with officials from the state Attorney General’s Office and Department of Transportation to discuss terms for a sale of 6.7 acres of state-owned riverfront land along the Connecticut River in the Westboro Rail Yard. 

For several years, city officials and civic leaders have eyed the historic rail yard as a priority for cleanup and revitalization. The rail yard, once a major gateway into the city, is now mostly defunct, though the rail line is still in active use for shipping propane.

Last year, the city and state collaborated to demolish four dilapidated and blighted structures in the rail yard, clearing the space to construct a city park and trail. 

Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, R-Wakefield, organized the meeting between the city and state officials to resolve remaining questions about the environmental cleanup of the property and its future use and maintenance prior to a sale agreement. 

“(This project) has been a long road for the Lebanon community,” Kenney told the Valley News. “I am just happy to be able to help encourage the DOT to support it and to help get the parties together to get it done.”

Kenney also credited city and state officials: “We had the right leaders to come together at the right time.”

The acquisition of the Westboro land is a key component to the West Lebanon Action Plan, a document created in 2021 to facilitate the redevelopment of West Lebanon’s central business district. While a park design has not been officially determined, past conversations have included the creation of a pavilion for live music, green space for recreation and opportunities to expand the city’s trail network. 

Under last week’s tentative agreement, the state would be responsible for the removal of hazardous contaminants, with the exception of any contamination that resulted from actions by the city, according to an email Mulholland sent city councilors last week. 

Lebanon would become responsible for mitigating any future environmental contamination, Mulholland added. 

In addition, the parties have decided to transfer the properties through a land sale, Mulholland stated. Initially the two sides had discussed the state leasing the property to the city, but later determined the lease option was “not the best course of action.” 

According to Kenney, leasing the land would have restricted what Lebanon could build on the land, making the city’s plan for a park difficult to realize. 

There would also be a deed restriction on the site that limits its use to solely recreational purposes. 

A sale purchase price has not been determined, according to Kenney, who said that the state typically would base its price upon the land appraisal and a fair market value. 

However, Kenney said, the state sometimes negotiates a reduced sale price should the intended use provide a benefit to the state or a local community, such as public recreation. 

Fillmore and an attorney for the Attorney General’s Office are expected to draft a formal agreement.

Once an agreement is drafted, there must be a new environmental assessment, appraisal and survey of the property. 

The agreement will also need approval from several governing bodies, including the City Council; the New Hampshire Council on Resources and Development; the Long-Range Capital Planning and Utilization Committee, a House legislative group; the Governor’s Office and the Executive Council. 

Mulholland anticipates this process to take another one year. 

Patrick Adrian can be reached at pfadrian25@gmail.com.

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