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Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mayor says ‘Parcel F’ no longer for sale; public hearing slated for Monday

NASHUA – A public hearing next week to discuss bonding $4.85 million to acquire Parcel F could be too little, too late.

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said Friday that one of Nashua’s most contentious pieces of land may be off the market.

“I would say that the property is no longer for sale,” Lozeau said. “I think that (the developer) is moving on with his project.”

Parcel F refers to about 33 acres off Concord Street, considered the last piece of raw, developable property once owned by Pennichuck.

It is slated for an 85-unit elderly housing complex called Hayden Green after developer North Concord Street Properties purchased it from Pennichuck’s real-estate subsidiary, Southwood Corp., for $2.2 million.

The private land deal closed Jan. 23, just two days before the city acquired Pennichuck and it became publicly owned.

More than 100 residents have protested the Parcel F land sale since July, worried the development could cause damage to the surrounding watershed and the city’s drinking water supply.

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

But when aldermen approved the city’s purchase of Pennichuck in November 2010, they accepted the Parcel F deal as a condition of that purchase. Since then, many have claimed that confidentiality stipulations prevented them from knowing Hayden Green’s placement near the watershed.

In order for the $4.85 million bonding to pass, the city must first hold the public hearing slated for Monday. The hearing will be during a special Board of Aldermen meeting at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

After the hearing, the Budget Committee must review the bonding and issue a recommendation. Ultimately, 10 aldermen must vote to approve the bonding, Alderman-at-Large David Deane said.

Not all city officials, or even all city conservation commissioners, think the complex could be harmful, though.

Lozeau, who said she has been in negotiations with North Concord Street developer Kevin Slattery for more than a year, has consistently said she is against buying Parcel F for his bottom-line asking price of nearly $5 million.

“If this was a project that had a negative impact on the drinking water, then I think that DES and others would not have given the authority to move forward,” Lozeau said.

The Board of Aldermen has debated whether to meet Slattery’s price and to keep it as conservation land. Originally, the board had authorized Lozeau to offer $3.5 million for the land in January, but Lozeau reported back that Slattery wouldn’t take less than $4.85 million.

Still, Slattery altered his housing plans and agreed to extend buffers protecting a bog on the land beyond what was required for the project, Lozeau said.

“He didn’t have to do that,” Lozeau said. “He did that at his own cost. I’m going to continue to work with him.”

In a nonpublic session earlier this year, the board voted down two motions to offer up to $4.85 million in cash for the land.

At a Board of Aldermen meeting March 13, though, 11 aldermen voted to approve the resolution to authorize bonding $4.85 million to make the purchase happen. Four voted against it.

Lozeau said the time for the city to buy the land has already come and gone.

“When you think about it, we made an offer, he said no,” Lozeau said. “He made an offer, a counter-offer, we said no. He’s moved forward.

“He’s in a very difficult position. He entered in good faith into an agreement back in 2005. He and the company had a confidentiality clause in their agreement, and he’s been working toward developing that property.”

Slattery hasn’t returned phone calls from The Telegraph seeking comment.

Deane, who introduced the resolution to bond the $4.85 million, said he wants to support the effort to buy Parcel F all the way through.

“You’ve got to stand behind what you believe in,” Deane said. “Whether the mayor supports it or not, I really don’t care. It comes to a point in time that the Board of Aldermen makes decisions outside of whether the mayor supports it or not.”

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