Overlay districts are districts that provide an extra layer of regulation to meet specific needs and purposes. The general purpose is to provide extra protection beyond the base district zoning.
The Lebanon Planning Commission voted in March to send the district overlay zoning request to the council with a positive recommendation after much debate and a 5-2 vote.
An initial work session was held May 16 at the request of Councilor Rob Cesternino.
“So, being from New England, I know what true historic zoning is,” said Cesternino. “This is not a true historic zoning, but it’s a change. As we’re going through this, I’ve always felt that ever since we started with the historic zoning that if there’s anyone who has concerns, we should always give them the opportunity to be in the same room and talk at the same time.”
Tracey Parks, chairman of the Lebanon Historic Preservation Commission, said the goal of the historic zoning overlay is to preserve the historic integrity of the area.
Mark Lee, an attorney whose office sits in the proposed zone, argued the proposed area and guidelines weren’t good for some of the property owners.
Parks and Lee returned to Thursday night’s work session to summarize their arguments before the issue officially goes before the council Tuesday night.
Parks said the commission’s opinion about the overlay was unchanged from the initial work session.
“We believe that the overlay is important to the entirety of the square,” said Parks. “I think we have, and I think the statistics show we have a very healthy square. That doesn’t mean the entirety of the square is healthy, we certainly have buildings there that are underutilized. Buildings have perhaps not been as well maintained as they should have.”
Lee argued the guidelines were too extensive and would hurt businesses already struggling in a flood zone. He also felt the zones that included the buildings on the backside of the square didn’t make sense.
“The guidelines fill 25 pages and have 14 illustrations, so statements that the guidelines are mostly pictures would be a falsehood,” said Lee. “The property in the Lebanon Square is always flooded. It will continue to flood. The study by the Corps of Engineers clearly shows it’s not going to be able to remediate that fact. Any business owner on the square is taking a major risk investing in that area already without these overreaching guidelines.”
During discussion of Tuesday’s council agenda, city planning director Paul Corder said the Lebanon Historic Preservation Committee requested to defer the agenda item to create the historic overlay zone, but Lebanon Mayor Bernie Ash decided to keep it on after Councilor Fred Burton expressed frustration with the request to defer. He said if the council decided as a whole to defer it at its regularly called meeting, it would be deferred. The council cannot take action or vote on items during a work session.
The council will hear the proposed ordinance at its meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m., which will begin with a public hearing at 5:55 p.m., at the Town Meeting Hall at 200 N. Castle Heights Ave.