Last piece of developable Pennichuck land may be purchased by city after all: Public hearing set for March 26
NASHUA – The public will get an opportunity to weigh in on whether the city should bond $4.85 million to buy land back from a senior housing complex developer, a move some believe will protect the city’s drinking water supply.
After several residents urged aldermen at a Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday night to reconsider acquiring Parcel F, Alderman-at-Large David Deane introduced a resolution asking Mayor Donnalee Lozeau to authorize bonding $4.85 million to purchase it.
Deane’s resolution to authorize the bonding passed by an 11-4 vote, and a public hearing has been set for March 26.
After public discussion, the budget committee will then take up the resolution and ultimately issue a recommendation for a final vote by the full board, Deane said. In order for the bond to pass, at least 10 aldermen will need to support it.
The resolution was Deane’s “plan B” to get the board to support buying back the land, after his earlier motion to reconsider offering $3.5 million for the land was narrowly rejected by aldermen in an 8-7 tally.
“I don’t feel it’s dead in the water,” Deane said. “I think it’s a valuable piece of property that we should own whether the city buys it or Pennichuck buys it. We have that $2 million that we got for the purchase of the property to begin with.”
Parcel F includes approximately 33 acres off Concord Street, considered the last raw piece of developable property once owned by Pennichuck Corp. and its real estate subsidiary Southwood Corp.
North Concord Street Properties LLC purchased the land from Southwood for $2.2 million just two days before the city closed on acquiring Pennichuck.
Aldermen approved the city’s purchase of Pennichuck in November 2010 and accepted the Parcel F land deal as part of the conditions of that purchase.
The land is currently slated for an 85-unit elderly housing complex called Hayden Green.
Voting in favor of the resolution to authorize the bond were Deane; Dan Moriarty, Ward 9; Jim Donchess, alderman-at-large; Diane Sheehan, Ward 3; Arthur Craffey, Ward 4; Kathy Vitale, Ward 1; Mark Cookson, alderman-at-large; Barbara Pressly, alderman-at-large; Richard Dowd, Ward 2; Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8; and Brian McCarthy, alderman-at-large.
Voting against were Lori Wilshire, alderman-at-large; Paul Chasse, Ward 6; June Caron, Ward 7; and Michael Tabacsko, Ward 5.
In two nonpublic sessions prior to Tuesday’s meeting, aldermen had considered buying the property back from North Concord Street developer Kevin Slattery for his bottom-line asking price of $4.85 million, but eventually balked at the price the city would be paying per acre.
Calls to Slattery were not returned on Wednesday.
Deane’s resolution is “a placeholder to keep it moving forward,” he said.
Lozeau has said the $4.85 million price tag includes the $2.2 million North Concord Street spent on the land purchase, as well as the $2.65 million profit expected on the property.
More than 100 people have protested the private land sale since July, citing potential hazards to the surrounding watershed if the property is developed.
On Tuesday night, several residents spoke in favor of trying to acquire the land.
Richard Gillespie, a member of the Conservation Commission, suggested the impact on the watershed should be investigated.
“You have an important decision to make, but first you have to release the emotional baggage associated with trying to save the last thing of anything,” Gillespie said. “Determine what can be gained if the parcel is developed. Do your due diligence. Hire an impartial expert to go out and tell you what is there. Make an informed decision based on facts.”
Former Alderman Ben Clemons also spoke out against acquiring the parcel.
“Spending almost $5 million on that is a colossal waste of money for a swamp and some trees,” Clemons said, “We should allow it to be developed and move on with that issue.”
City officials had long expressed a desire to buy Pennichuck so that Nashua could halt land sales and protect its watershed.
With Deane’s resolution approved, residents will finally get a chance to be involved in the dialogue about bringing the land under city ownership.
“We value what we spend money on,” resident and public works board member Tracy Pappas said. “What do we want to value? When we purchased Pennichuck, we said, ‘You know what? We should own the water in the city.’”
Geoff Daly, a Nashua resident who has led the public’s charge against the sale, was the first to plead with aldermen Tuesday 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.”
Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Gill on Twitter@Telegraph_MAG.