Convention center faces hurdles

by Michelle Mooradian | 11/16/93 6:00am

Questions about water supply and traffic complications are haunting the developers of a proposed $15 million hotel and conference center scheduled to open in Hanover in 1995.

The proposed 150-room Hill Winds Hotel and Conference Center is planned for a 40-acre lot off Route 120, just north of the Lebanon-Hanover border.

The location of the center will affect both Hanover and Lebanon, said Ralph Atkins, a Lebanon planning board member and chairman of the city's water study committee.

Developers hope to use Lebanon's water system as the center's main source. They argue that this makes sense logistically, because the center will be a few hundred feet from Lebanon's water main, as opposed to more than 3,000 feet from Hanover's water main.

But some Lebanon officials, citing the city's limited water capacity, have flatly opposed offering water to the proposed center.

"I don't see how we are going to sell water we don't have," said City Councilor Nancy Cohen.

Elizabeth Brazilian, the South Pomfret developer who is heading the $15 million project, says that calculations on water demand have not yet been completed, and that the Lebanon water supply is not the only option.

"We hope that within 10 days we will be able to talk to people intelligently on the basis of more exact data," Brazilian said, "I'm not concerned. We will achieve something."

Atkins said he opposes giving water to a Hanover development because it will put an extra burden on Lebanon's water supply and will encourage traffic-generating development on Route 120.

Lebanon City Councilor Suellen Balestra said she has similar reservations.

"Already people are crying about the traffic on Route 120," she said. "It will have a real adverse impact and Lebanon gets stuck with the problem."

In addition, Lebanon officials said the project will generate traffic problems and deplete the city's limited water supply, without providing new tax revenue.

"I personally would oppose any development that would impact the city of Lebanon, unless we can find a joint way of being compensated," Atkins said.

Atkins said non-profit, tax-exempt buildings are going up on the Lebanon side of the border, such as the postal service distribution center in Centerra and David's House near the hospital.

"Now they want to put the prize in Hanover," Atkins said, "Lebanon is just getting dumped on."

One option is to get water from Hanover.

Ed Brown, executive vice president of Hanover Water Works, said he has not yet seen the center's plans and does not know if the project will require a separate pumping station.

If the project uses the Hanover water supply, there will be no shortage of water. "We have plenty of water," Brown said.

An additional pumping station would mean an increase in cost, said Shawn Donovan, a Hanover planning board member who helped arrange for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center's water supply when it moved from Hanover to Lebanon two years ago.

"A pumping station would cost well into the six figures," Donovan said.

George Gline, Lebanon's director of public works, said there are some summer days when the city's water consumption is close to capacity.

The Lebanon plant "is not capable of producing more water without major construction, which could cost as much as $8 million," Gline said.

Gline said he is concerned about providing enough water to Lebanon residents.

"We really ought to be saving the excess water for our own community, not selling it to another community," Gline said.

Cohen proposed that Lebanon cooperate with Hanover to solve the traffic and water problems.

"Maybe we should look at joining forces with Hanover with regard to assessing impact fees," Cohen said.

According to Bernard Waugh, legal counsel to the New Hampshire Municipal Association, Hanover has no impact fees ordinance, though it can impose "off- site assessments" as a condition of approval.

Hanover could do that on behalf of Lebanon, Waugh said. But there is a gray area about what conditions the town could impose on the developers.

"Traditionally, large developers will pay for their own improvements," Donovan said.

Lebanon officials agree that the debate on the project has a long way to go.

"It's early to make any decision," said Norman Dobson, chairman of the Lebanon planning board.

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