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Lebanon voters to take on two City Council races, zoning amendments

  • Lebanon, N.H., city council candidates up for election on March 9, 2021, are, top row from left: Clifton Below, Cory Grant, Karen Liot Hill and Al Patterson. Bottom row, from left: Sylvia Puglisi, Doug Whittlesey and Devin Wilkie. (Courtesy photographs)

  • Karen Liot Hill (Courtesy photograph)

  • Al Patterson (Courtesy photograph)

  • Sylvia Puglisi (Courtesy photograph)

  • Cory Grant (Courtesy photograph)

  • Devin Wilkie (Courtesy photograph)

  • Doug Whittlesey (Courtesy photograph)

  • Former state senator Clifton Below has declared his candidacy for Lebanon City Council. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Copyright © Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

    Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/27/2021 10:09:44 PM
Modified: 2/27/2021 10:09:40 PM

LEBANON — Voters will decide the fate of two contested City Council races and three proposed zoning amendments during Lebanon’s municipal election this month.

A three-way race for an at-large council seat will see incumbent Karen Liot Hill face off against challengers Al Patterson and Sylvia Puglisi.

Meanwhile, Councilor Bruce Bronner’s decision to step down from his seat representing Ward 2 has resulted in a two-way race between Devin Wilkie and Cory Grant.

Ward 1 also will see turnover this election season after Councilor Sue Prentiss, who won election to the state Senate in November, declined to run again. Doug Whittlesey, who manages grants and contracts for Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, is running unopposed to succeed her.

Assistant Mayor Clifton Below also is running unopposed for another term representing Ward 3 on the City Council.

At-large seat

Liot Hill, a former Lebanon mayor who is completing her 16th year on the council, said she’s running to continue making the city a “more sustainable, prosperous and inclusive community.”

Her priorities include completing the revitalization of downtown West Lebanon, seeing through the completion of the rail tunnel that runs underneath the Lebanon Mall and reducing costs to operate Lebanon Municipal Airport.

Liot Hill — who currently works as a paralegal, piano teacher and radio DJ — said she also would like to explore creating a commission on diversity and inclusiveness to help implement a 2018 resolution denouncing racism and promoting inclusiveness.

“I am committed to moving this forward as a city councilor,” said Liot Hill, who chaired the Lebanon Fair and Impartial Policing Task Force. “Making Lebanon an even more welcoming and inclusive community is an important priority to me.”

Puglisi, who teaches math and anatomy at Vermont Technical College in Randolph, said she hopes to help the city recover from the economic downturn that occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Homeless people, restaurant owners, families and those most susceptible to the virus all struggled over the past year, she said. “I think identifying the places where government action can help is critical for all communities — but especially urgent for us in a time of economic struggle, and human services is a place we cannot afford to fail.”

Puglisi is one of two candidates who were endorsed by the Upper Valley chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, which last year proposed a plan to cut Lebanon’s police budget in half by the start of 2022 and instead invest in housing, health care and food assistance.

The City Council ultimately declined that proposal, voting in December to adopt a $61.1 million budget without cuts to police staffing.

Puglisi, a member of the DSA, said she believes “all aspects” of the city’s budget should be up for discussion, adding the group’s policing proposal “opened many good questions in my mind.”

Patterson, a semi-retired Hanover police officer and Navy veteran who has lived in Lebanon for more than 40 years, said he hopes to ensure the city “pays attention to the needs of all our citizens.”

Patterson, a who sits on the Lebanon Zoning Board and previously served on the School Board, said about a fifth of the city’s residents are seniors who are overburdened with taxes. Meanwhile, he said, West Lebanon doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

He also acknowledged that the city should have a conversation about race and policing, but said he doesn’t support the DSA proposal to cut police spending. Instead, Patterson proposed creating a regional mental health unit that can help respond to emergencies.

“As a black man and a retired police officer, I feel I can bring some ideas to the table,” said Patterson, whose wife, Barbara, is running for a School Board seat. “I don’t pretend to be speaking for everyone on either ‘side,’ but I’m mostly interested in finding middle ground and smart solutions.”

Ward 2

Wilkie, a nonfiction book publisher who serves on the city’s Arts and Culture Commission, said he hopes to balance fiscal responsibility with the need to support residents while representing Ward 2, which covers the middle of the city and some parts of downtown.

“I want us to have the capacity, both in infrastructure and public services, to grow responsibly, without becoming unaffordable,” he said.

Wilkie, who is also a member of the Upper Valley DSA and is endorsed by the group, said Lebanon’s municipal budget should be examined closely in the coming years, adding that he would like to further explore the group’s proposal.

“We should be prioritizing the health and well-being of our people, and not punishment, and I think our spending should reflect those priorities,” he said.

Meanwhile, Grant, president of the Lebanon Outing Club, said he wants to serve the city in a new way.

“I feel there is so much that this city has to offer and I would like to help improve what we all have,” he said. “My drive to running this year was timing. I feel it is now time as ‘times are changing’ and we need to make it positive for our community and our support staff.”

Grant, who works as a network administrator and American Red Cross instructor, added that he hopes to advocate for improvements in Lebanon that don’t increase taxes.

“I fully support the fire, EMS, and police and I don’t feel like we should be cutting those departments,” he said. “We should be looking for alternatives if we haven’t and researching different avenues for improvement.”

Zoning amendments

City voters will also decide whether to adopt three zoning amendments on the March 9 ballot.

The first amendment would allow developers to build up to 55 feet within Lebanon’s Residential 1 zoning district so long as they promise to build a first-floor parking structure. The zoning district is largely situated around Mount Support Road and is intended to support multifamily developments.

If passed, anyone looking to build to that elevation — 10 feet above current limits — would have to request permission from the Planning Board and agree to larger setbacks to preserve surrounding land.

“I think there’s a growing awareness and hopefully acceptance of the value of growing up and not out,” Lebanon Planning Director David Brooks said.

Another proposal asks to include houses of worship by right in the Residential 3 district, which encompasses the neighborhoods around downtown and downtown West Lebanon. The category of buildings is already allowed in many of the city’s zoning districts and any new church would likely still require a full site plan approval before the Planning Board, according to Zoning Administrator Tim Corwin.

The final amendment would clarify how many units are allowed in developments inside the Residential 3 district. Corwin said the proposal wouldn’t change how projects are treated, but rather codify current practices.

Voting by Australian ballot will take place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 9, at the Kilton Public Library in West Lebanon (Ward 1), the United Methodist Church (Ward 2) and City Hall (Ward 3).

The Upper Valley Business Alliance is hosting an online candidates night at 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 2. Information on the event and how to watch is at Lebanonnh.gov/civicalerts.aspx?AID=1618.

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




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