Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Join as a sustainer and help unlock $10K for NHPR!

Proposed 152-unit apartment complex in Lebanon gets Planning Board OK

Lebanon City Hall.
Dan Tuohy
Lebanon City Hall.

This article is being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. It was first published in the Valley News. For more information visit

LEBANON — A divided Planning Board has given approval for 152-unit apartment complex across from Colburn Park, but not before concerns about parking nearly derailed the process.

In a debate that grew testy at times, the board initially indicated it would reopen discussion on the parking plan for the apartments, which the board had already approved last month.

That brought vehement objections from the developer, Recreo LLC.

The firm’s representative, Tim Sidore, warned board members that if they insisted on further delaying approval by reopening the parking questions, the project’s developers were prepared to walk away.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate,” Sidore said. “We have followed the rules, we have met the conditions and you voted on it. I don’t understand why the rules are being changed for us, for this project.”

At issue was the plan for just 99 on-site parking spaces, with an agreement for Recreo to secure a 99-year lease for 100 additional spaces available nearby at 0 Water St. for residents to use in the evening and on weekends, as the Planning Board approved in June.

Laurel Stavis, who was among the board members who wanted to revisit the parking issue, said the city — not developers — would be left to deal with the situation on the ground once the apartments are built.

“We’re the ones who will end up with the mess if the parking doesn’t work out,” Stavis said. “I think this is a project of such magnitude that we, on behalf of the public, need to exercise that responsibility.”

Board member Thomas Jasinski asked city staff if the board would be able to sign off on the parking lease to ensure to conformed to the members’ expectations.

But Tim Corwin, the city’s senior planner, told him the board could mandate the parking agreement as a condition for approving the site plan, but the responsibility for reviewing it fell to the city attorney.

Jasinski, Kathie Romano and Stavis sought reassurances that the board’s wishes would not be altered by the city attorney. Romano reminded fellow board members that parking has been the No. 1 topic of public concern about the project.

Planning Board Vice Chairman Matthew Hall, however, noted that the city’s zoning ordinances require that legal counsel review the parking agreement, not board members.

“We’re not lawyers,” Hall said. “I would be wary that we start reviewing legal documents between two parties. We’ve never reviewed legal documents on this board. I don’t know why we would start now.”

While acknowledging parking concerns, Hall said: “We spent a considerable amount of time on this at the last meeting. We already made that decision.”

Eventually, Corwin told board members they could reopen the public hearing on the project and reconsider the parking issue, but it would require the site plan approval process to be continued to a later date.

A 6-3 straw vote showed the board was receptive to the idea, at which point Sidore objected.

“Respectfully, I think we’re done here,” Sidore said, implying the project could be shelved if the board insisted on revisiting the parking issue.

As the conversation continued, Sidore continued to express his frustration, telling the board: “This is where projects go to die.”

That comment elicited several cries of “Yes!” from members of the public in attendance, most of whom opposed the project.

“There are a lot of people here who would like to see that happen,” Planning Board Chairman Bruce Garland told Sidore.

In the end, Corwin convinced a majority of board members that the conditional use permit they approved June 27 protected them against any substantive change to the agreement without requiring Recreo to return to the Planning Board for approval.

Romano, Stavis, Garland, Hall, Jeremy Rutter and Kim Chewning voted in favor of the project. Gregorio Amaro, Jasinski and Cori Hirai voted against it.

Recreo’s owner, Mike Davidson, plans to build the two apartment buildings — one a five-story structure with 72 apartments and the other a six-story, 80-unit building. Recreo had received approval in June for eight variances and four conditional use permits for issues such as setbacks, landscaping, buffers and parking in June.

City officials have put a priority on promoting high-density residential development in the downtown district.

After the meeting, Sidore confirmed the parking issue was important enough he was willing to walk away if the board had persisted.

“At some point, the rules and the regulations are the rules and regulations,” Sidore said. “And we had met them.”

After the meeting, in a post to the Lebanon Listserv, Davidson and Sidore struck a conciliatory tone.

“We appreciate and will honor the terms and conditions of the Planning Board’s approval,” the post read. “If we cannot finalize sufficient parking arrangements, we will not build the project.”

Emails to the property manager for the 0 Water St. parking lot were not returned by press time.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.