Thank you to the 40 Friends of River Park who attended the Lebanon Planning Board hearing last night. I regret the public was not invited to comment last night since that is the fundamental purpose of a public hearing as mandated by state law and the Lebanon zoning ordinance. I can only hope this was an oversight, albeit inexplicable, which unfortunately denied you the opportunity to voice your views and beliefs in a critical public setting.
Notwithstanding the Valley News article of today's date reporting the events of last night, the permitting process grinds on. The Planning Board spent almost four hours reviewing the staff report and draft conditions for final Subdivision Approval, but no action was taken. The hearing was continued yet again to October 11, 2011, which is a regular planning board meeting with other items on the agenda.
The draft conditions recommended by the planning staff for final Site Plan Approval were not discussed at all. Site Plan Approval is the most important document since it ties directly to the River Park Master Plan. It is hard to imagine how the Planning Board will be able to take final action on October 11, 2011 which by then will be 145 days overdue according to state regulations.
Last night, Lyme Properties presented our written response to the two draft approval documents prepared by planning staff and identified those conditions that we believe are unfair and do not accurately meet the rational nexus requirements mandated by state statute. It is important to know that despite promises by the City Manager for an earlier delivery, we were only furnished with the draft documents ourselves late last Thursday afternoon, and well after the deadline for submitting our response within the required advance notice required by the city. Thus we had to hand out our response at the meeting last night for consideration on the spot. As part of this, our attorney offered language to correct a legal deficiency in the draft documents prepared by the planning staff regarding vesting rights, which is a legal requirement. According to the planning staff, the City's attorney had reviewed and approved the draft documents in advance but had made no provision for vesting. Unfortunately, the city's attorney was not present at the hearing and the City Manager strongly advised against modifying the draft language without his review.
Lyme remains opposed to the expanded traffic mitigation measures proposed by staff and presented to the Planning Board for the first time on September 22, 2011. The scope and timing of several of the additional mitigation measures severely impact the financial viability of the project.
However, we have proposed a detailed compromise for each mitigation measure, including a $200,000 cash contribution to the City to enable it to implement any traffic measures that the City views as desirable, since the City alone has the power to make changes in the municipal right-of-ways, not XYZ Dairy. This will also allow the Planning Board to impose similar requirements on other developments that impact West Lebanon on an equitable basis.
This brings the total amount of traffic mitigation expenses that Lyme has proposed for River Park to $700,000!
The Planning Board has the authority to impose reasonable conditions and after 16 months of reviewing our site plan and subdivision applications, I believe they have sufficient information to vote. If and when a final vote is taken, Lyme will review the financial impact of the entitlement process and determine the feasibility of moving forward. It is now clear that no construction activity can take place in 2012 based on the proposed conditions, a disappointing reality given the time and effort expended by Lyme thus far.
Please stop by the site on Saturday, October 1, 2011 from 12:00 noon until 3:00 PM when Lyme will open the corn maze we planted this summer. Enjoy a hamburger or hot dog, potato salad, baked beans, roast corn, dessert, and soft drinks under the yellow tent, rain or shine. This is our way of saying "thank you" to our supporters.
The corn maze will remain open to the public until October 17 when the corn will be harvested and donated to a farmer who lost silage crops due to the flooding caused by Hurricane Irene.