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  • Nashua residents have opposed the development of a 33-acre parcel at 200 Concord St. in Nashua that sits on Pennichuck Water Works land. North Concord LLC plans to build a 85-unit elderly housing complex on the site.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Pennichuck Water Works, 200 Concord Street, Nashua.
  • Staff photo by Don Himsel


    Facebook- Don Himsel at The Telegraph


    Pennichuck Water Works, 200 Concord Street, Nashua.
Thursday, July 7, 2011

Utility, partner to sell 33 acres

NASHUA – Pennichuck Water Works and its real estate subsidiary, Southwood Corp., plan to sell 33 acres at 200 Concord St. to a development firm, which hopes to build an 85-unit housing development for the elderly on the site.

Two multifamily buildings are proposed at the front of the site on Concord Street, one with 48 units, the other with four, according to the city. The remaining units will be 33 detached homes. The project also includes new entrances, streets, lighting and landscaping improvements, along with a small community building.

The Planning Board is considering the proposal at a meeting tonight at 7 in the City Hall auditorium.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said city officials have known about the proposed development for four years.

“In March 2007, Pennichuck and Southwood Corporations agreed to sell about 42 ares of land for residential development,” the mayor said in a statement.

“The land is located on Concord Street, downstream from the water treatment plant. Pennichuck revealed that commitment as part of its disclosure of ongoing operations and contracts before the city voted to acquire Pennichuck by merger,” Lozeau said.

She said the proposed development is not part of the Pennichuck watershed, the preservation of which was a primary concern of residents and officials.

However, the Planning Board agenda specifies that parts of the property are within a Water Supply Protection District. Furthermore, 200 Concord St. is one of the physical locations of Pennichuck Water Works, houses a massive water storage tank, and is next to the water treatment plant. City maps show the parcel comes within a few hundred feet of what is called “Supply Pond.”

“Although this land is not part of the Pennichuck watershed, it will represent further loss of timbered, undeveloped land. That is unfortunate, because the city would not want to develop the land in its current state. If presented with a choice, the city would not want to develop that land and would be willing to enter into negotiations to preserve in its current state. At the present time, however, the city must honor Pennichuck’s prior commitments,” Lozeau said.

The property, says city planner Matt Taylor, is “predominantly wooded and includes a 6-acre bog on its southern corner near Henri Burque Highway. In 2004, the Zoning Board of Adjustment approved a special exception to permit a massive 6.5 million water tank on the site.

The development firm that may buy the land, North Concord Street Properties LLC, is also proposing a subdivision application for the site that would set new boundaries and create a conservation parcel and a utility lot for the water tank.

Pennichuck and Southwood have run into storms of criticism for the sale and development of watershed properties, particularly in the Tinker Road area, in the past. The utility in 2001 announced its plans for selling its operation to Philadelphia Suburban Corp.

Local officials quickly announced plans to acquire the water company in order to protect local control of the water supply. Eventually residents opted to take over the 116-year-old utility during a special election.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said residents wanted Pennichuck out of the real estate business, and she wasn’t sure whether negotiators studied the proposed plan for new homes carefully enough.

“I can understand if people would be angry about this,” Pressly said. “It did come up at the very end of negotiations, but I’m not sure we went far enough.”

Conservation Commission Chairman David McLaughlin said his body wasn’t consulted about the plan because developers claim they will use technology that will leave the site slightly cleaner after construction.

Still, he said the property has been “pristine” until now and only an “idiot” would believe there would be no environmental impact.

The city’s takeover of Pennichuck is not yet complete.

On June 15, Pennichuck shareholders approved a deal to sell the company’s stock to the city of Nashua for $29 a share.

The approval was the second step in a three-step process required for the city to fully acquire Pennichuck Corp. via a stock purchase.

In the first step, Nashua aldermen approved the deal earlier this year.

The final step is for the state Public Utilities Commission to give its blessing to the acquisition, which is expected to occur by year’s end.

Tom West can be reached at news@nashuatelegraph.com.