Lyme's Response to Lebanon's "Principles for a Sustainable Community" (2009)

The following is Lyme’s response (published 1/16/09) to an early draft of Lebanon’s Principles for a Sustainable Community. The Principles were adopted by the Lebanon City Council in September, 2009 (Read on Lebanon's Website: Originally Adopted September 2, 2009; Revised and Adopted March 4, 2015)

Principle #1 – Community engagement and interaction
Does the proposal....

  1. Foster community involvement and leadership?
    1. Reach out to community organizations?
    2. Educate the community?
    3. Foster effective communication?
  2. Increase citizen participation in all aspects of the municipal government?
    1. Utilize interactive tools such as surveys and the internet?
    2. Encourage citizen enthusiasm and community identity?
    3. Promote civic pride?
  3. Increase participation at every level of government (local,state,and federal)?
    1. Involve the community, City Council, and staff in participatory events?
    2. Support advocacy on behalf of municipal interests?
    3. Promote diversity, equality, and smart growth principles?
  4. Encourage community and stakeholder collaboration in local government decisions?
    1. Recognize that all levels of government, and the non-profit and private sectors, play an important role in creating and implementing policies?
    2. Support transparency, accountability, and responsibility?
    3. Make local government decisions more transparent, predictable, fair, and cost effective?

 

The Lyme Properties master planning process for the former Bailey Brothers site has included extensive community engagement. In November of 2007 we mailed an introductory letter to more than 200 of our closest neighbors and invited them to open a dialogue with us concerning the future uses of the site. We were very gratified that approximately 100 neighbors responded that they would like to be involved in our planning. We then held a series of four informal neighborhood meetings at the site, with between 30 and 50 neighbors attending each time. Following each meeting we summarized the results and forwarded the information to the expanded mailing list and invited feedback.

To facilitate a dialogue we tried something new; at each meeting we gave everyone a wireless keypad and asked them to respond, anonymously, to a series of questions. We then instantaneously showed everyone the results of the polling. Some of the results were surprising and I think we all learned something. I appreciate that these sessions were a dialogue and I was very impressed that there were thoughtful comments made to some of the questions we asked. In response to these comments we modified some questions “on- the-fly” and re-polled with the neighborhood feedback included in the choices. This polling process covered questions about the participants, the essential elements of the fabric of our neighborhood, and desirable forms of open space.

During the neighborhood meetings we also presented what we call a zoning primer in which we graphically helped educate our neighbors on the possible uses under the current zoning and discussed modifications to the zoning that would enhance their neighborhood and support smart growth principles.

Our engagement with the neighborhood is also evident in the high level of neighbor participation in our meetings with the Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning Board. Approximately 25 letters of support were submitted through the ZBA process and more than ten neighbors testified in person at ZBA hearings. We believe this is the largest showing of community support for any recent development proposal.

Principle #2 – Regional Leadership
Does the proposal...

  1. Advance Lebanon as a regional leader?
  2. Work with neighboring towns to achieve common goals and address common problems more effectively?
  3. Encourage a regional view of community interdependence while respecting local autonomy?
  4. Manage growth locally and collaborate regionally?
  5. Promote positive innovation and excellence though achieving and exceeding Best Management Practices?

The former Bailey Brothers site on Route 10 has the potential to provide needed real estate solutions in proximity to Lebanon, Hanover, and White River Junction. The development of the site will be regulated by the City of Lebanon under the site plan approval procedure with opportunities for these other municipalities to provide input and ideas. The open space opportunity along the Connecticut River could link with and complement offerings at neighboring towns, thereby helping them achieve the common open space and recreation goals. The site is also located on a state highway which provides linkage to surrounding communities and could help ease traffic pressure in more congested areas that are of joint concern with surrounding towns.

These towns each have goals of providing appropriate opportunities for skilled and high- tech jobs, jobs that can be achieved by providing life science research and development space.

Principle # 3 – Sense of Place
Does the proposal...

  1. Foster the traditional character of Lebanon and Northern New England?
    1. Preserve character of existing neighborhoods?
    2. Promote character in new neighborhoods?
  2. Sustain quality of life?
  3. Ensure that development retains and enhances the sense of place, traditions, goals, values and vitality of the local community?
  4. Revitalize and sustain the City’s two downtowns: Lebanon and West Lebanon?
  5. Preserve the rural landscape
    1. Sustain farm and forest based operations?
    2. Sustain rural lands maintaining contiguous tracts of open space?

The River Park Master Plan appropriately preserves the character of the abutting Crafts Avenue neighborhood. It does so by reinforcing the scale of the neighborhood thorough construction of similar single family homes along the southern portion of the site, by restricting access to the Crafts Avenue extension, and by providing meaningful open space adjacent to this neighborhood.

The development will also respect the traditional character of the area by placing most of the development in the existing open areas of the site. This will preserve the signature trees and river meadow on the site. Due to the topography of the site, the largest buildings will be constructed on ground that is well below the elevation of most of Route 10, thereby minimizing their visual impact.

The development will include a village green area, river front walkways and overlook points, and important open space which will sustain and enhance the quality of life for not only those who occupy the development, but for neighboring residents as well. The employment opportunities at the site will reinforce the services and retail in Old West Lebanon and will act as a catalyst for reinvestment in the area.

Principle # 4 – Environmental Responsibility
Does the proposal...

  1. Sustain and enhance a healthy natural environment?

    1. Identity, avoid, minimize and repair negative environmental impacts?
    2. Protect and improve air quality?
    3. Protect and improve water quality and quantity?
      1. Protect and improve soils, including their ability to grow food, timber, and other vital crops?
      2. Strengthen the community’s ability to withstand floods, drought, and other natural disasters?
      3. Lead by example in following or exceeding best- management practices for all City activities?
  2. Promote and reinforce a network (“green infrastructure”) of protected open spaces and natural areas?
    1. Conserve the City’s native flora and fauna by conserving the variety of habitats found here?
    2. Encourage re-use of existing development and conservation design for new developments?
    3. Partner with citizens, landowners, schools, businesses, organizations, and other governments to care for, learn from, and responsibly enjoy natural assets? 

The River Park Master Plan contains significant open space with passive recreational opportunities for tenants, neighbors and the broader Lebanon community. The types of uses programmed for this open space are the result of thoughtful discussion and polling by neighbors and in consultation with the City’s recreation department and members of the Conservation Commission. The open space areas will be protected by restrictive covenants, open to the public, yet privately maintained and improved which will allow this open space to be a community asset without requiring city funding. The open space is largely made possible by concentration of most parking into two parking structures. While expensive to build, the garages will create open space as a valuable public amenity.

Principle # 5 – Energy Efficiency
Does the proposal...

  1. Improve energy efficiency?
  2. Reduce the City’s carbon footprint?
  3. Engage citizens, property owners, schools, businesses, organizations,and other governments to conserve energy and adopt more sustainable technologies for heating, cooling, lighting, and so forth?

Lyme Properties is a leader in sustainable development and will incorporate meaningful green initiatives in each building at River Park. Lyme constructed the first large scale, privately funded office building in the Unites States to achieve a platinum rating under the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process (Genzyme Center). Lyme also developed Center for Life Science Boston, the first high rise laboratory building in the United States to achieve LEED gold status.

The location of this site provides an opportunity to reduce carbon footprint through proximity to neighborhoods where employees might live. The River Park Master Plan also encourages pedestrian, bicycle, and mass transit options.

Principle # 6 – Compact Development
Does the proposal...

  1. Control sprawl by maintaining traditional compact settlement patterns?
    1. Focus development on human-scale, mixed-use centers accessible by multiple transportation modes?
  2. Use existing land, resources, and investments in infrastructure?
    1. Use infrastructure efficiently?
  3. Conserve and enhance environmental and cultural resources?
    1. Promote higher-density development, infill development, redevelopment, and the adaptive re-use of existing buildings to create more compact urban areas?

This site is well served by existing infrastructure. Water and sewer mains are located in Crafts Avenue, Route 10 has additional traffic capacity, Advanced Transit has a stop adjacent to the site on Route 10, and the site will link to existing pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure. In addition, the development is focused on providing compact development through the use of structured parking and carefully managed building height to provide approximately half the site as open space. The redevelopment of this former junk yard and its proximity to Old West Lebanon will help contain sprawl.

Principle # 7 – Mixed Uses
Does the proposal...

  1. Offer a creative mix of housing –include a range of affordable housing-, employment, shopping, services, recreational and social opportunities within walkable neighborhoods?

The River Park Master Plan is a mixed-use plan. It blends publicly accessible open space with single family homes, more affordable multi-family housing, neighborhood commercial retail opportunities, and skilled and high-tech job opportunities in a pedestrian friendly environment.

Principle # 8 – Multi-Modal Transportation
Does the proposal...

  1. Create a balanced, multi-modal transportation system that plans for increased transportation choice?
    1. Encourage public transportation?
    2. Expand choices and safety of transportation?
    3. Accommodate safe and accessible passage for pedestrians and bicyclists?
  2. Create livable, walkable communities?
    1. Encourage a human scale to development and amenities conducive to community life?
    2. Promote policies and design that result in a street appropriate to local context and needs?
  3. Increase accessibility for people of all ages and abilities?

The River Park site is served by Advance Transit service, links to existing pedestrian infrastructure on Crafts Avenue, is on a designated bike route, and is within walking distance of both residential and commercial areas in Old West Lebanon. The development on the site will include centralized parking in two garages, with ample ADA accessible spaces located at each building and in the garages. Each building will be elevator served to allow accessibility to upper floors. Within the limits of the topography, the open space will also be accessible

Our experience in other mixed-use projects has led us to separate the parking garages from the buildings. This separation encourages people to walk from the garage to their destination building through common open space, thus leading to social interaction, expanded retail traffic and a greater sense of community, often lost when direct garage to building access is allowed.

Principle # 9 – Economic Vitality
Does the proposal...

  1. Enable the local and regional economies to become more prosperous...not just bigger?
    1. Preserve the rural economy?
    2. Encourage local markets and Community Supported Agriculture?
    3. Foster an innovative and diversified business environment?
    4. Support and/or help grow existing businesses and job base?
    5. Encourage community investment?
  2. Promote community prosperity?
    1. Create sustainable living wage jobs that are consistent with the labor skills of the community and region?
    2. Encourage socio-economic diversity?
    3. Provide a range of affordable housing options?
    4. Reduce poverty?
    5. Promote job training and the creation of a skilled workforce?
  3. Proactively positioning our community for a changing world?
    1. Create and/or assist local businesses to compete and succeed in a global economy?
    2. Support/enhance previously identified industry niches that the local economy can fill and successfully compete within?
    3. Attract businesses within specific industry niches that will enhance Lebanon’s and the region’s quality of life?

The Upper Valley is widely regarded as a center for medical care and high-tech research. The River Park Master Plan will encourage and support this niche by providing opportunities for existing local companies to grow and thrive, while also fostering the creation of new businesses. These firms are area leaders in job training and attraction of highly skilled employees. These types of jobs provide the livable wages which encourage and grow our local economy.

Principle # 10 – Fiscal Responsibility
Does the proposal...

  1. Strengthen the City’s tax base?
  2. Preserve and enhance property values?
  3. Pay for itself?
  4. Generate and/or produce other forms of non-tax revenue to help reduce the fiscal burden on taxpayers?
  5. Reduce the long term costs?
  6. Allow for transparency in government fiscal policies?

The River Park Master Plan will create a significant addition to the City’s tax base. The single family and multi-family residences will create a moderate impact on the school system while the commercial components will generate tax revenue for the City while requiring modest services. The development will also serve as a catalyst for other improvements in Old West Lebanon, further increasing the tax base and enhancing property values.

Much of the land was placed in current use by the former owner. When the site is developed, a fee will be paid to the City to take the land out of current use. By policy, the fee from Lyme Properties development activities will be allocated by the City to fund acquisition and improvement of open space. Further, the publicly accessible open space on the site will be improved and maintained by River Park, thus providing a public benefit without the use of tax funds.