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Apartments Proposed for W. Lebanon

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2016 12:19:52 AM
Modified: 6/22/2016 12:19:56 AM

Lebanon — The Twin Pines Housing Trust plans to bring additional affordable housing to West Lebanon with a proposal for a four-story apartment building on Main Street.

Under plans filed with the city, the development would include 31 apartment units and first-floor office space. The location would be the parking lot at Mascoma Savings Bank; 58 new parking spaces would be built in lots behind the building and along Tracy Street, where two homes would be razed.

Twin Pines officials are scheduled to meet with the Planning Board on Monday for a conceptual review of the project.

“Economic growth is dependent upon housing growth, particularly workforce housing,” said Kevin Worden, an engineer hired by the Twin Pines Housing Trust, in a letter to the Planning Board.

Over the past decade, he said, several employers and residents in the Upper Valley have expressed a need for more affordable units.

Although the city’s available housing grew by about 16 percent in the 2000s, demand can still outpace supply, Worden said.

The Twin Pines Housing Trust manages about 390 units throughout the Upper Valley. It’s most recent expansion in the city came last November, when it acquired the Village at Crafts Hill, formerly the Pine Tree and Beechwood apartment complexes, in West Lebanon. The move saved those living in the subsidized units from having to pay market rates when a federal program that funded the construction of the units expired.

Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter said because the organization is still reaching out to neighbors and other stakeholders, he could not comment further at this time.

Stephen Christy, president and CEO of Mascoma Savings Bank, said Twin Pines approached bank officials with a proposal to purchase land about four months ago.

“This is going to be a great thing for Main Street and downtown West Lebanon,” he said, noting the nearby Advance Transit bus stop and Kilton Public Library as amenities for residents.

“We think this a great use of our property,” he said.

The bank has signed an option-to-purchase agreement with Twin Pines, said Barry McCabe, the bank’s executive vice president and COO.

Neighbors of the bank have opposed past attempts to develop the property.

In 2007, the bank went before the Zoning Board to request a special exception to expand its parking lot. The expansion would have benefited both the bank and a nearby apartment building that’s since been demolished, officials argued, according to meeting minutes.

But those who live nearby said parking so close to homes creates a nuisance.

The board ultimately denied the bank’s application, saying additional parking wasn’t needed.

Mascoma Savings Bank owns three parcels of land around the Main Street branch totaling about 1.8 acres. The combined assessed value of the land is $662,200, according to city records, but not all of the land is part of the Twin Pines proposal.

Lebanon real estate agent Patrick Flanagan owns two houses on Tracy Street that would be demolished to make room for the new parking lots.

Their combined assessed value is $312,700, according to city records.

Flanagan also signed an option-to-purchase agreement with Twin Pines.

“I think it’s a good idea. I can tell you that there’s a housing issue that needs to be addressed.” he said. “Better to address it than try to ignore it.”

Anne Duncan Cooley, executive director of the Upper Valley Housing Coalition, said “affordable” and “workforce” housing each have separate legal definitions, but are often used interchangeably to mean housing that is affordable to working families.

Twin Pines’ application to the city uses both to describe the apartment building.

Either way, she said, housing is difficult to obtain and afford. Officials once described housing as affordable when it cost about 30 percent of a family’s income. Now, it’s not unusual for people to pay 50 percent of their income toward rental units in the region, Cooley said.

After the 2008 recession, younger adults began to flock to rental units to cope with college debt and low wages during tough economic times, she said. But they have to compete with seniors downsizing from larger, more traditional homes.

That leaves a rental vacancy rate in the region of about 1 to 2 percent, Cooley said.

Last month, The Lebanon Housing Authority proposed building a 30-unit apartment building on a quarter-acre lot on North Park Street in downtown Lebanon, but pushback from neighbors and the Planning Board led the authority to withdraw its application.

The Planning Board will take up the proposal when it meets at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at City Hall.

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




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