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Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

Facebook: Bob Hammerstrom at The Nashua Telegraph

Hybrid cars have the priority parking outside the latest New Hampshire Liquor Store in Nashua.
Saturday, August 6, 2011

Drivers see red over ‘green’ spaces at Nashua liquor store

NASHUA – Diane Eastwood thinks it’s just silly to designate four parking spaces in front of the N.H. Liquor and Wine Outlet for hybrid and low-emission cars only.

But then, she isn’t sure who would be better suited to get the premium spaces in front of a booze superstore.

“You would think they would be for pregnant ladies or somebody – but they shouldn’t be coming here,” Eastwood said.

She and her husband, Scott Eastwood, shopped at the Coliseum Avenue outlet on Friday afternoon. The Tyngsborough, Mass., couple described themselves as infrequent visitors to the liquor outlet, but they’ve only seen one hybrid car park in the spaces – ever.

“So, if the lot’s full come Christmas, I can’t park here?” Diane Eastwood asked.

Actually, she could, Scott Eastwood reminded his wife. The couple owns a low-emission Subaru.

The Eastwoods aren’t the only ones questioning the wisdom of putting hybrid car parking spaces there.

William O’Brien, the speaker of the N.H. House, and some of his Republican cohorts, including Nashua Rep. Peter Silva, are complaining that the green spaces are directly in front of the liquor store while the handicapped spaces are more toward the side. They asked the Liquor Commission to change the parking scheme.

Joseph Mollica, chairman of the New Hampshire Liquor Commission, said the handicapped spaces were placed halfway between the separate entrances for the public restrooms and the liquor store.

“We felt that the handicapped customers that come to the store would be better served being closer to the bathrooms,” he said. “As retailers, we realized the importance of making it convenient if people need to use the facilities.

“It was designed in a way to keep all our guests happy.”

Critics accused O’Brien and other House Republicans of feigning interest in the issue to get attention.

“If the speaker and Representative Silva actually care about people with disabilities, they have a terrible way of showing it,” said Harrell Kirstein, press secretary for the New Hampshire Democratic Party.

“They both supported a budget that cuts millions in services for our most vulnerable citizens, including people with disabilities.”

On Friday afternoon, shoppers abided by the signs, leaving the hybrid car and handicapped spaces empty.

The four spaces for hybrid and low-emission cars and one handicapped space are directly outside the store.

Three other handicapped spaces are available to the left of the other designated spaces and a slightly farther walk from the front door of the liquor store.

As if to mock the idea, someone had stuck a “priority mail” sticker over one of the hybrid parking signs. Scrawled onto the sticker in pen was, “Ha Ha Ha!!!”

The parking spots for hybrid vehicles are required as part of the building’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and can’t be moved until the certification is completed.

That, in turn, has to wait until the old building is torn down and replaced with green space, Mollica said.

After that, the commission has flexibility for the hybrid parking spaces and might be able to replace some of them with handicapped spots, Mollica said.

“I don’t know if we could swap them all, but we may be able to move some of them,” he said.

Police can’t ticket non-hybrid vehicles for parking in the “green” parking spots.

The $3.3 million, 20,000-square-foot building was designed and built by Pro Con Construction, of Manchester. Mollica said the new facility is designed to be a benchmark for future state liquor store design, including location of reserved parking.

“I don’t think anyone thought it was going to be an issue,” he said.

One Telegraph reader, who posted her comments on the paper’s Facebook page, voiced concern about pushing the handicapped spaces away from the front door of the liquor store.

She wrote: “I agree with the house speaker shame on them for doing that and even more shame on the governor to allow such an action to move the handicap spots farther away than they hybrid car spots, what type of message is that even sending??? as long as you have enough money to purchase that type of car then you can park up front and forget about those who actually have a physical handicap?? this is just obnoxious.”

As for Diane Eastwood, she is happy this controversy is happening over the border from her home state. She worries what the powers that be in the Bay State might do with the concept.

“If people from Massachusetts get a hold of this, none of us would be able to park anywhere,” Eastwood said.

Staff writer Kevin Landrigan contributed to this story. Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or