Lebanon City Council considers $1.8M land purchase

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-26-2023 8:35 PM

WEST LEBANON — A pending plan by the city to purchase three adjoining West Lebanon properties will open new possibilities in the future revitalization of Main Street, according to municipal officials.

On March 15, the Lebanon City Council will hold a public hearing on whether to appropriate $1.8 million to purchase three commercial lots owned by Chiplin Enterprises, a real estate firm located at 30 Main St.

Under the agreement the city will acquire 30 Main St., 28 Main St., and 14 Main St., from Chiplin for $1.75 million. 

The additional $50,000 in the appropriation would fund an environmental assessment of the properties. 

“It is our hope that the redevelopment of these parcels will spur further investment in this entire area, which is sorely needed,” McNamara said.

If approved, the $1.8 million for the purchase will be raised through the issuance of a bond or municipal notes.

The City Council voted unanimously to pursue purchase of the properties at a meeting on Feb. 1.

The upcoming public hearing is over whether to appropriate money for the transaction.

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In a discussion of the proposal at a Feb. 15 meeting, Mayor Tim McNamara called the property acquisition “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” for the city.

“It’s not just any property, but sufficient property to give us some real options down the road, (whether) to use this for a public purpose or a public-private partnership or something (else),” McNamara said.

The combined properties total just over an acre in size and have a total assessed value of approximately $1.4 million, based on the city’s 2022 revaluation.

The 14 Main St. parcel is separated from the larger two by Church Street. McNamara told the Valley News that this lot, just over one-tenth acre in size, was part of the offered property package.

The city is currently considering a $4 million project to revitalize the Main Street corridor, which recently received a $2.3 million federal grant.

This project, last estimated in June at a cost of $4.1 million, will redesign the Main Street corridor between Bridge Street and its intersection with South Main and Maple streets at Seminary Hill.

The plan includes a roundabout at the intersection with Bridge Street, which is aimed at reducing traffic delays and vehicle speeds, increase pedestrian safety and create better spaces for landscaping and aesthetic improvements.

While the city has not decided upon a use for the properties being acquired, some city councilors have suggested using the land for a new West Lebanon fire station.

A 2019 study of Lebanon’s public safety buildings conducted by Manchester-based Lavallee Brensinger Architects found that the two city fire stations — one located in Colburn Park in downtown Lebanon and the other in West Lebanon — are too small for modern-day operating needs.

The West Lebanon Fire Station — located on Main Street just a couple of blocks north of the targeted properties for acquisition — sits on a lot that is less than a quarter-acre and is unsuitable for expansion, according to the study.

In an interview, Assistant City Manager David Brooks said the city would like to keep the West Lebanon fire station as close as possible to its current location, which provides good access to surrounding areas and enables emergency personnel to arrive at sites in a reasonable time frame.

The proximity of a fire station to surrounding neighborhoods is a factoring criteria into a fire department’s ISO, or Insurance Services Office rating, a score that measures the abilities of a community’s fire-protection services.

ISO ratings are shared with insurance companies, which use the ratings to set homeowner insurance rates. Homes that are located several miles from the nearest fire station are likely to have higher insurance premiums than homes that are closer to a station.

A proposal in 2021 to build a new West Lebanon Fire Station at 38 Maple St., the former property of Holy Redeemer Church, received pushback from neighborhood residents, who felt the station’s noise and activity would be a disturbance.

That location was a predominantly residential area and in stark contrast to the heavily commercial corridor of Main Street.

Under the rules of the Lebanon city charter, a two-thirds super-majority of council votes — or at least six votes in favor — is required to appropriate funds not contained in the operating budget.

The public hearing will be held on Wednesday, March 15, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The location of the meeting may change if the flooring renovation work at City Hall is still in progress.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.

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