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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Nashua fighting order to pay $2.8 million for Broad Street Parkway land

NASHUA – Costs are beginning to add up for land seized by the city to make way for the Broad Street Parkway, and one eminent domain case pending in superior court could affect the bottom line by more than $2 million.

Nashua is appealing a recent decision by the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals about the value of roughly 11 acres of land taken for the parkway – one of the largest acquisitions in the project’s history. ...

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NASHUA – Costs are beginning to add up for land seized by the city to make way for the Broad Street Parkway, and one eminent domain case pending in superior court could affect the bottom line by more than $2 million.

Nashua is appealing a recent decision by the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals about the value of roughly 11 acres of land taken for the parkway – one of the largest acquisitions in the project’s history.

The city contends that $1.3 million is a fair price for the land, but a separate evaluation paid for by the former owners – local developers Samuel Tamposi Jr. and Stephen Tamposi – pegged the price at $2.8 million.

The BTLA ruled in favor of the Tamposis, agreeing that the property – which was once eyed for a condominium development – can now only feasibly support a handful of new single-family homes.

The determination could have a significant impact on the cost of building the Broad Street Parkway. The roughly $67 million
initiative is being subsidized with federal money, but Nashua also is taking on millions of dollars in debt to finance the project.

Any savings will be passed on to Gate City taxpayers. The project is currently several million dollars under budget, but eminent domain costs are on track to exceed earlier estimates. Less than $2.6 million remains in the original project budget for land acquisitions.

Nashua corporation counsel Stephen Bennett said the city believes the BTLA awarded an “excessive” amount of money to the Tamposis for the land on Warsaw Avenue, Fairmount Street and Baldwin Street that was taken.

“They made their decision and we have our appeal, and that’s our avenue,” he said.

The land in question was owned jointly by J.K.S. Realty and L.J.J. Realty, companies registered to the Tamposis. The family has held four parcels measuring roughly 26 acres north of the Nashua River since the 1980s.

As plans for the Broad Street Parkway developed, the Tamposis struggled to market the properties because of confusion over the design of the roadway. They eventually took the city to court in 2009, arguing that uncertainty made it impossible to sell or develop the parcels.

The dithering also resulted in the loss of a potential $4 million sale to Baybridge Building and Remodeling Inc., in 2004, the Tamposis argued.

The lawsuit eventually was dismissed from Supreme Court, but with the litigation still pending in 2011, the city finalized plans to acquire about 11.2 acres of the land by eminent domain.

“The parkway is physically sitting on that land,” explained parkway project manager John Vancor, who said the northern leg of the two-lane road will pass through the property.

The BTLA held a hearing in October 2013 to determine just compensation for the land. Under state law, “just compensation” is measured by the difference between the “before” and “after” market values of the property, combined with any severance damages.

The city relied on an appraisal prepared by David S. Rauseo, who estimated that the value of the land dropped from $2.38 million to a little less than $1.07 million, resulting in damages of $1.32 million.

The city’s appraiser felt the most profitable use for the land – before a chunk was taken for the parkway – would have been a multi-family residential development, consisting of 195-215 units. Rauseo estimated that it still would be feasible to build 125-135 units on the remaining land.

Russell W. Thibeault, an appraiser hired by the Tamposis, came to different conclusions. Thibeault felt the best use of the property would have been a high-density residential development offering 320 units, spread across five mid-rise condominium buildings, each four stories high. That plan previously was presented to the Nashua Planning Board, according to the BTLA’s ruling.

Thibeault found that the land dropped from a value of $3.10 million to a mere $219,000 because, in his estimation, it would no longer be feasible to build multi-family condominiums or apartments on the remaining property.

Instead, Thibeault reasoned, development prospects have dwindled to selling off 11 lots for single-family homes; one lot could be accessed via Warsaw Avenue, and 10 more could be served by a cul de sac off Baldwin Street.

Thibeault calculated the resulting damages at $2.88 million. The BTLA concurred in a March 24 ruling, ordering the city to reimburse the Tamposis the full amount, plus interest.

Nashua appealed the land board’s ruling in Hillsborough County Superior Court on April 14, requesting a jury trial to determine a fair price for the land.

“Everybody gets a second bite at the apple with a jury trial if they want one following an order from the BTLA,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian Buonamano, of the Transportation and Construction Bureau at the New Hampshire Department of Justice, who previously represented the city in the eminent domain case.

Buonamano withdrew from the matter June 9, handing the reins to Nashua’s city attorneys.

“It made sense that, (since) the city of Nashua would have a direct financial stake in the outcome, to be actively involved in the eminent domain litigation,” Buonamano said.

Bennett said the city likely will hire an outside attorney with expertise in eminent domain cases to litigate the appeal on its behalf.

The Tamposis are being represented by Bedford attorney Arthur G. Greene and Gerald R. Prunier, of the Nashua law firm Prunier & Prolman. They contend that the BTLA properly and accurately determined just compensation for the land taken by the city.

The parties agreed June 6 to enter mediation over the dispute. A trial is tentatively slated to begin in May 2015 if no settlement is reached by early next year.

Prunier declined to comment on the case because the matter is still pending in superior court.

Jim Haddadin can be reached at 594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).