- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Geoff Daly speaks to city aldermen during a public hearing concerning the bonding of Parcel F Monday, March 26, 2012, at City Hall.
- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Former alderman Dan Richardson speaks to city aldermen during a public hearing concerning the bonding of Parcel F Monday, March 26, 2012, at City Hall.
- Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom
Aldermen listen to Dan Richardson speak about a $4.8 million bond during a public hearing concerning Parcel F Monday, March 26, 2012, at City Hall.
Attorney for North Concord Street Properties LLC: Parcel F no longer for sale
NASHUA – The hopes of a dozen residents pleading with aldermen to bond $4.85 million to purchase Parcel F on Monday night were quickly dashed as the attorney representing the developer in possession of the land said the parcel is no longer for sale.
“Business conditions do not remain static. They are constantly changing, given the passage of time and change of circumstances,” said Brad Westgate, attorney for North Concord Street Properties LLC. “Consequently, North Concord Street Properties, LLC is not in a position to sell the property.”
The Board of Aldermen held a special meeting and public hearing to discuss a resolution to bond $4.85 million to buy 33 acres off Concord Street, considered the last piece of raw, developable land once owned by Pennichuck.
Along with Westgate, about 15 people showed up for the hearing – including residents, conservation commissioners and former aldermen – which proved to be a roller coaster of frustrations and emotions as each side made its case before the board.
After the hearing, the Budget Committee voted 4-3 against recommending the bond resolution to the full board, with Aldermen-at-Large Lori Wilshire and Brian McCarthy, and Aldermen Richard Dowd and Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja voting against. Aldermen-at-Large David Deane, Mark Cookson, and Jim Donchess voted in favor of the resolution.
For the bonding to pass, 10 aldermen must ultimately vote in favor of the resolution when it is brought before the full board again. McCarthy said the issue may come up during Tuesday’s meeting if a member puts forth the motion to bring the business forward.
Many attendees at the public hearing Monday said they supported borrowing millions to buy Parcel F, including resident Geoff Daly, who has led the public charge against its sale and also challenged a city recreation easement on 3.5 acres of Parcel F in court.
“Yeah, it’s a lot of money, but … if we don’t (buy the land), and there’s a problem going forward, the city has to deal with it,” Daly said. “The amount you’re being asked to bond is peanuts compared to the overall picture.”
Not all who spoke were convinced the land was worth the cost it would take – or that the planned Hayden Green development would pose harm to the watershed.
Conservation commissioner Richard Gillespie said hydrological, geological and engineering studies show that development on Parcel F would not harm the watershed.
“If you choose to ignore the facts and purchase this land, you will have wasted our money and lost a significant tax revenue stream that would have followed,” Gillespie said.
On Jan. 23, North Concord Street bought approximately 33 acres of Parcel F from Pennichuck and real estate subsidiary Southwood Corp. for $2.2 million – just two days before the city acquired Pennichuck and its subsidiaries. Pennichuck and North Concord Street had a purchase-and-sales agreement in place since 2005, Westgate said.
Southwood has sold and helped develop hundreds of acres in north Nashua and Merrimack over the past few decades, which is why some city officials first pushed trying to acquire Pennichuck 10 years ago.
That also seemed to be the reason many residents who opposed the Parcel F land sale stood up to urge alderman to bond the $4.85 million to buy it back.
“The history of Pennichuck is one of deceit and greed,” former Alderman-at-Large Fred Teeboom said during the public hearing. “Purchase Parcel F, and in a very small way, it will alleviate some of the scandal’s history.”
Some consider Parcel F the last opportunity for the city to protect the watershed that had motivated Pennichuck’s acquisition.
“When Pennichuck sold the city its water company, they had stripped all the meat from the bones,” resident Barbara Nelson said. “They sold us a skeleton. This is the last chance. I would like to see the board vote to take that chance.”
Since the land deal closed, aldermen have held two nonpublic sessions to weigh whether the city could buy back Parcel F. Over that time, they have voted twice not to meet Slattery’s $4.85 million asking price with cash.
Westgate told the board that its Feb. 28 vote not to spend the $4.85 million on the land ultimately set the development plans in motion.
“The next day, Mr. Slattery moved on, prepared to commence development.” Westgate said. “Since then, contracts have been awarded, materials committed for purchase, and human resources and equipment scheduled into the development plan.”
Slattery hasn’t returned phone calls from The Telegraph seeking comment.
In November 2010, aldermen accepted the Parcel F land sale as a condition of the city’s purchase of Pennichuck. Many have since claimed that confidentiality stipulations prevented them from knowing of Hayden Green’s placement near the watershed.
During the public hearing, Westgate detailed the history of North Concord Street’s work on Parcel F, which he said will only develop 14.5 acres of the parcel and excludes conservation areas on the property. Westgate said North Concord Street got all the approvals it needed from local and state officials to move forward with the development, and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past seven years to be able to do so.
“It’s folly to think that either (the project engineer or Slattery) would design or build a residential community in an irresponsible and an environmentally unsound manner,” Westgate said. “Such a result would be wholly inconsistent with their business reputations and past performance.”
When the Planning Board approved North Concord Street’s housing complex last July, more than 100 residents protested the development, citing concerns that it could damage the surrounding watershed.
“If we start bulldozing and we start poisoning, what’s going to happen to the animals and what’s going to happen to us?” asked resident Tracey Rye, who lives at the Clovelly Apartments abutting the Parcel F land, during the public hearing. “Once you take something from something, it’s lost forever. We need to protect this land for future generations. … Water is gold.”
Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has said she has met privately with Slattery for more than a year to try to work out a deal that would allow the city to buy Parcel F.
During the public hearing, Daly asked Lozeau to detail the public on when and with whom she met during the negotiations.
In February, Lozeau said Slattery turned down the $3.5 million that she was initially authorized to offer for the land. Slattery also refused the city’s offers combining land and money in exchange for the parcel, Lozeau has said.
As part of the negotiations, however, Lozeau said Slattery agreed to expand the buffers in his development plans beyond what is required to protect a bog on the land. Westgate said Slattery plans on taking additional measures to protect the nearby watershed.
“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.”
Maryalice Gill can be reached at 594-6490 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Gill on Twitter (@Telegraph_MAG).