Twin Pines Revises Plans for West Lebanon Apartment Complex; White River Junction Proposal Moves Ahead

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/17/2017 11:57:26 PM

West Lebanon — Twin Pines Housing Trust is scaling down plans to construct an apartment complex in downtown West Lebanon after a proposed four-story building slated for Main Street failed to garner adequate grant funding.

The nonprofit housing group now is hoping to gain city approval for a three-story, 29-unit apartment building that would be constructed on nearby Tracy Street. Twin Pines officials said the new project would amount to a 30 percent reduction in square footage from last year’s proposal and would cost less to build.

The single-family homes that now occupy 12 and 16 Tracy St. each would be demolished, under Twin Pines’ proposal, and the two lots would merge to make way for the new building.

Meanwhile, across the river, plans for a new housing complex are moving forward in White River Junction.

“We’re really interested in bringing new, affordable housing to the area,” Twin Pines CFO Beth Long told the Lebanon Planning Board during its May 8 meeting. “So we’re looking to revamp the plan so we could make it work.”

But before construction can begin on the West Lebanon project, city officials must OK a change to Tracy Street’s zoning. The two lots Twin Pines hopes to build on are partially located within one of Lebanon’s residential zones, so the housing agency is hoping the City Council will expand the nearby commercial building district so that it encompasses the entire site.

The council is scheduled to discuss the expansion in June. Some of Lebanon’s land-use boards also must weigh in before the council can make a decision.

Planning Board reviewed the project in early May and voted to recommend the zoning change.

Twin Pines Executive Director Andrew Winter said on Wednesday the new West Lebanon proposal cuts few housing units downtown, but space for offices and a community room would be eliminated.

In August, Twin Pines was given city approval to begin work on a 39,000-square-foot apartment building on what is now part of the Mascoma Savings Bank parking lot. Designs called for 31 residential units in a building meant to architecturally complement the nearby Kilton Public Library. Plans also allocated space on the building’s first floor to be used as offices for Child and Family Services of New Hampshire, a nonprofit.

“We applied for a number of funding courses, which is typical for an affordable housing project,” Winter said.

Twin Pines was able to obtain $1.5 million from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, Long told the Planning Board on May 8, according to an audio recording of the meeting. But the group came up short of obtaining needed tax credits from the state of New Hampshire, she said.

Winter said Twin Pines withdrew its application for $500,000 in federal grant dollars when it learned the state money wouldn’t be coming. The nonprofit hopes to reapply for the grants and the tax credits, he said, now that the plans are being amended.

“We’ve looked at a variety of ways to restructure the project to try and bring down the cost,” Winter said.

Eliminating construction of the offices and moving the project to Tracy Street could save $1 million from the original plan’s projected $8.5 million price tag, Winter said.

Moving the building away from Main Street also means there’s fewer regulatory requirements, Twin Pines officials told the Planning Board earlier this month. Because of Main Street’s proximity to the Westboro Rail Yard and propane tanks stored there, federal regulators called for tougher construction standards, officials said.

White River Junction Proposal Moves Ahead

As Twin Pines starts fresh with its West Lebanon proposal, the Hartford Planning Commission has allowed a proposed project to move forward in White River Junction.

A Twin Pines application for a housing project located off Sykes Mountain Avenue was approved, 5-1, by the Hartford Planning Commission on May 8, over the objections of some neighbors.

The project, a three-story residential building with 30 units, could be completed as early as this fall, while a second phase would add between 12 and 15 townhouse units to what currently is a vacant field north of Sykes Mountain Avenue and west of Lily Pond Road.

“The project is surrounded by single-family dwellings and the proposed building does not fit in,” said Peter Armen, the son of abutter Patricia McDonald, according to Planning Commission minutes. He also expressed concerns about traffic and noise.

Residents Clare Forseth and Dave Sherman said they were worried about traffic, and how the $8 million project might change the character of the area.

Commission member Peter Merrill responded that the presence of single-family dwellings was not a valid reason to deny the application.

“He added that under the Municipal Plan the area is a Designated Growth Center,” according to the meeting minutes.

Twin Pines is hopeful that its latest West Lebanon proposal will be met with less opposition from neighbors, some of whom had voiced concerns about last summer’s proposal.

“I think the change that they are proposing would be an improvement over their old plan,” Mountainview Chiropractic Center’s Dr. Walter Moore said on Wednesday.

The new building still would have access to downtown, the library and a nearby Advance Transit stop without creating traffic issues, Moore said. The building also would be an improvement over the existing homes it will replace on Tracy Street, he said.

Twin Pines purchased both properties from real estate agent Patrick Flanagan in December, according to city assessing records. Although the two properties were valued at $312,700, the nonprofit was able to purchase them for $220,000.

Curt Jacques, the owner of West Lebanon Feed and Supply, said he also is pleased to hear Twin Pines is choosing to construct a smaller building.

“That was one of the big issues, having this huge building that was going to be maybe not as attractive,” he said on Wednesday.

To ease future traffic on Tracy Street, Jacques suggested the city consider making it a one-way street where Advance Transit buses could park without causing congestion on Main Street.

The proposal won approval from the Planning Board in an 8-1 vote on May 8, with City Council representative Sarah Welsch abstaining.

The City Council is expected to hold a public hearing on June 21 to discuss rezoning the Tracy Street lots.

If all goes to plan, Winter said, Twin Pines hopes to have construction on the project begin in spring 2018.

Valley News Staff Writer Matt Hongoltz-Hetling contributed to this story.

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




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