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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Planning Board approves of city’s purchase of West Hollis Street tracts

NASHUA – The Planning Board likes the idea of the city purchasing three West Hollis Street parcels, fronting the city landfill, to one day be used for a consolidated Public Works facility.

On Thursday night, the board unanimously issued a favorable recommendation of Mayor Donnalee Lozeau’s resolution to spend $650,000 to buy properties at 836, 844 and 848 W. Hollis St.

Combined, the three parcels make up approximately 3.4 acres and are assessed at $889,500.

Five hundred thousand dollars would be used from the city’s “Pennichuck Acquisition Fund” to purchase 836 and 844 W. Hollis St. from the Docos Family Revocable Trust of 2009, according to the resolution.

Another $150,000 would be used from the fiscal 2012 general contingency fund to buy 848 W. Hollis St. from Robert and Gail Brown, of Indiantown, Fla.

The funds would be put toward a newly created account called “Public Works – Land Purchase,” according to the resolution.

“When the opportunity’s there, take it, because you don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Richard Larose, an ex-officio member of the Planning Board said Thursday.

The resolution to acquire the parcels first was introduced at the aldermen’s March 13 meeting.

The aldermanic Infrastructure Committee, split on whether to acquire the parcels, has tabled the resolution twice. The Board of Public Works will review the legislation April 19, Alderman-at-Large Mark Cookson said.

“I’m trying to convince (the Board of Aldermen) and I think many of them would agree that there is just merit to owning the land all by itself, if nothing else,” Lozeau told the Planning Board Thursday.

Lozeau has said the short-term plan for the property would be to change the way residents get in and out of the city landfill, and to create a buffer between the West Hollis neighborhood and the dump.

Currently two homes and a car garage sit on the properties and the owners have been trying to sell the land for years, Lozeau said.

There are some environmental issues on at least two of those parcels, Lozeau said. DES has a file on them and the purchase-and-sales agreements are contingent upon an environmental site assessment report on the conditions effecting the properties.

“Again, 300 acres of a landfill abut those three small acres and you can be assured that some of what goes on at the landfill is migrating towards some of those properties,” Lozeau said. “What they’ve talked about being over there is some petroleum-based substances which are probably from the service station or other work that the family has done over the years … they did a lot of cars and parts and repairs, and so we anticipate there’s some trouble there. But when you’re putting it with a landfill, we’re not expecting to have pristine land.”

The long-term plan for the land would be to move the city’s public works offices on Riverside Drive, a site near Holman Stadium, the street department offices and garage at Stadium Drive, and a Parks & Recreation trailer by Greeley Park to West Hollis Street, Lozeau said.

“When opportunities come up and they’re right in front of us and they’re reasonable, we should have the foresight not necessarily to make the decision just for today, but for tomorrow and the day after that, and this price, it is just a remarkable opportunity to grab a hold of that and to see whatever the possibilities might be for today and for the future,” Lozeau said Thursday. “I can’t think of any downside to having this.”

Lozeau has estimated that the effort could cost another $15 million in bonding down the road.

A bonus would be allowing Conway Arena to expand to two ice rinks on Stadium Drive, once the street department buildings and garages move out of the area, Lozeau has said.

Lozeau and Alderman Mike Tabacsko, who represents the Trestle Brook neighborhood, shared with residents the plans to move Public Works in front of the landfill.

Tabacsko said the few who attended were “very amenable” to the idea, after they had protested the sale of that land to a commercial developer looking to build a gas station and convenience store in recent years.

Lozeau has said she hopes to have the purchase-and-sales agreements approved by aldermen, and the sales closed, by early May.

One of the agreements list April 30 as the closing date, the other is unspecified, but Cookson said the mayor was willing to try and get an extension if needed.

Ultimately, the legislation will come before the Infrastructure Committee again and before the full board for the final vote. It will require 10 votes in favor to pass.

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