Lebanon officials seek more traffic data on proposed casino

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 05-12-2023 4:38 PM

LEBANON — City officials are still awaiting additional traffic analysis before considering a proposed charitable gaming casino and restaurant on Miracle Mile, whose scheduled public hearing this week was continued to June 12 by the Planning Board.

Owners of the Lebanon Poker Room are seeking to relocate their charitable gaming casino on 45 Hanover St. to a larger location at 369 Miracle Mile, a former Honda dealership owned by Jonathan Gengras, a Connecticut-based auto dealer.

The proposed project would convert the former dealership into a 41-seat restaurant and bar and a casino containing approximately 111 electronic gaming machines and 13 gaming tables, according to a project description submitted to the city in December.

Under New Hampshire law, “charitable gaming” means a state-regulated category of gambling whereby 35% of the proceeds must be donated to charitable nonprofits. In New Hampshire, charitable gaming can include poker, bingo and casino games such as roulette and blackjack.

On Monday the Planning Board, for the third time since February, rescheduled the project’s public hearing to allow city officials more time to review and discuss the planned proposal and supporting studies.

“So if you want to get up and leave, we will understand,” Vice Chairman Jeremy Rutter told residents in attendance who had hoped to speak in either support of or opposition to the project.

City planning officials indicated they need more time to discuss the project’s traffic-impact study, which was submitted in February by Vanasse & Associates of Andover, Mass.

That study concluded that the project “will not have a significant impact (or) increase on motorist delays” and could operate in the existing traffic system “in a safe and efficient manner,” provided the plan provides adequate traffic signage, sufficient driving lane widths and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant wheelchair ramps at pedestrian crossings.

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According to the study, the casino is estimated to generate approximately 1,038 total vehicle trips per day, including entering and exiting the site, with approximately 76 total vehicle trips on Fridays between 6 and 8 p.m. and 54 total vehicle trips on Saturdays between 4 and 8 p.m.

But a city-contracted peer review of the study, conducted by the Manchester, N.H., firm Weston & Sampson, has requested additional traffic data to confirm the accuracy of the study’s traffic projections.

The review, completed in April by traffic engineer Jeffrey Santacruce, questions whether the study analyzed enough traffic from other casinos to make accurate projections of estimated traffic in Lebanon.

The study based its estimates on traffic volumes at the Wonder Casino in Keene, N.H., which “operates most similarly to the (Lebanon) project in terms of size and the number of games played,” according to traffic engineers at Vanasse & Associates.

But Santacruce, in a written response to the study engineers, noted that the Wonder Casino is located in a strip mall and does not have its own dedicated parking lot, which makes it more difficult to accurately study the patronage volume.

Santacruce recommended the study include comparable numbers of other casinos, including Fiotmo Casinos in Manchester and Dover, N.H., as well as the Lebanon Poker Room.

“This may include data such as average nightly transaction volumes, occupancy data, door counts or other similar data that can provide facility utilization rates over a given time span,” Santacruce stated.

Santacruce also recommended that the study examine traffic and potential impact at the Interstate 89 Exit 19 ramp, in the event that the proposed casino “has more of a regional or out-of-state client base.”

City officials are also waiting for the Lebanon Police Department to provide crash data on Miracle Mile for the years 2019-2023.

The applicants, in addition to site approval, are seeking a conditional use permit to allow 14 off-site casino parking spaces at 351 Miracle Mile, an adjacent property owned by Seacoast Harley-Davidson, an ownership group based in North Hampton, N.H. The additional parking spaces are needed to meet the city’s minimum parking space requirement for the proposed facility.

If approved, the casino would lease the spaces from Seacoast Harley-Davidson.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews or at 603-727-3216.

CORRECTION: The proposed charitable gaming casino on the Miracle Mile plans to have 13 gaming tables, according to the applicants. A previous version of this story stated an incorrect number. 

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