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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Aldermen reject reconsideration of Parcel F acquisition

NASHUA – Despite several residents urging aldermen to reconsider the acquisition of Parcel F, the vote that could have made that process possible failed by a hair on Tuesday.

Alderman-at-Large David Deane had submitted a motion to reconsider the board’s failed vote to offer $3.5 million for the 33-acre parcel, considered the last piece of raw, developable land once owned by Pennichuck Corp.

Eight of the 15 aldermen voted against a proposal to reconsider the acquisition.

The board president, Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, cast the final vote, putting the nays over the top.

Geoff Daly, a Nashua resident who has led the public’s charge against the sale, was the first to plead that aldermen try again to acquire the property.

“As one alderman said just recently, if we have a problem, we’ve got a problem for the rest of our lives,” Daly said. “If the city owns that and preserves it, we will not have a problem.”

In two nonpublic sessions prior to Tuesday’s meeting, aldermen had considered buying the property back from North Street Properties developer Kevin Slattery for his bottom-line asking price of $4.85 million.

North Concord Street purchased Parcel F from Southwood Corp. for $2.2 million just two days before the city closed on acquiring Pennichuck. The land is slated for an 85-unit elderly housing complex called Hayden Green off Concord Street.

In a memo submitted to the board and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau prior to the meeting, Deane said he would move to amend the amount to $4.85 million if the reconsideration vote was successful.

Whether that amended motion would have proved successful and the 33 acres could have ultimately been preserved, residents will never know.

Also voting against reconsideration were Lori Wilshire, alderman-at-large; Richard Dowd, Ward 2; Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8; Paul Chasse, Ward 6; June Caron, Ward 7; Michael Tabacsko, Ward 5; and Kathy Vitale, Ward 1.

Voting in favor were Deane; Dan Moriarty, Ward 9; Jim Donchess, alderman-at-large; Diane Sheehan, Ward 3; Arthur Craffey, Ward 4; Mark Cookson, alderman-at-large; and Barbara Pressly, alderman-at-large.

More than 100 people have protested the private land sale since July, citing potential hazards to the surrounding watershed if the property is developed.

Richard Gillespie, a Nashua resident and member of the Conservation Commission, said the impact on the watershed is questionable.

“I’d be curious to know how many board members have set foot on this land,” Gillespie said. “You have an important decision to make, but first you have to release the emotional baggage of trying to save the last thing of anything to be saved.”

City officials had long expressed desires to buy Pennichuck so that Nashua could halt land sales and protect its watershed.

During their last nonpublic session, though, faced with two motions to possibly do that with Parcel F, not enough aldermen, nor Lozeau, were convinced that the housing complex would harm city drinking water.

Pressly also expressed a desire to revisit the issue in a letter sent to Lozeau and the board last week.

“Parcel F is not about what appears in your coffee cup,” Pressly wrote. “It represents what natural land still existed in Nashua in 2002 when the citizens voted to stop the destruction of the land and save whatever was left in Southwood.”

Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or mgill@nashuatelegraph.com. Follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).