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Monday, May 7, 2012

DES inspection finds Parcel F development well-maintained, compliant with city and state requirements

NASHUA – Despite some public probing of the senior housing development underway on Parcel F, state environmental officials say the ongoing construction on the site complies with state and city standards.

Late last month , the Department of Environmental Service’s Wetlands Bureau administrator Collis Adams walked the construction site with city officials and North Concord Street LLC developers Kevin and Jaron Slattery, responding to public concerns over how construction was proceeding.

It was found to be “well-maintained” and “in compliance with the DES alteration of terrain permit requirements,” Harry Steward, director of the DES Water Division, said Wednesday.

Planning director Roger Houston and city Planner Chris Sullivan, as well as project civil engineer Jim Petropulos of Hayner/Swanson Inc., also participated in the inspection.

Hayden Green, an 85-unit housing development geared toward residents 55 and older, will soon stand on the property off Concord Street, once considered the last raw piece of developable Pennichuck property in Nashua.

For months, the land, referred to as Parcel F, garnered public backlash and aldermanic debate over whether the property should be developed at all, as some worried that building a housing complex near Pennichuck’s watershed would threaten the city’s drinking water.

City aldermen have opted not to try to buy the property from Slattery for his $4.85 million asking price, after North Concord Street legal representatives indicated the property was no longer for sale in April. Various resolutions to fund the city’s purchase of the land also failed to garner enough support from the board.

Environmental experts have repeatedly said the development poses no threat to the city’s drinking water.

Residents, lead by Geoff Daly, however, continue to push the issue publicly at aldermen’s meetings and by making inquiries of DES.

“All we want is a clarification of the law, the rules and the regulations … per everything that we’ve talked about since July of last year, and we still haven’t gotten to the bottom of it,” Daly said.

After Rep. Lisa Scontsas, R-Nashua, made a phone call to the state department, DES looked into the site, Steward said.

Such inspections are not uncommon, but as DES is thinly staffed, the department has relied on Hayner/Swanson’s reports on the project, a local firm that maintains a strong reputation with the state, Steward said. Adams found their reports to be accurate after visiting the property April 27.

DES maintains the development is downslope of the Pennichuck Water Works supply pond watershed and therefore outside the city’s water supply.

The approximately 14-acre development, away from wetlands and surface waters, Stewart added, maintains a buffer of silt fencing more than 50 feet wide to protect a bog on the property.

“Any buffer required between the construction site area and the bog is based on city requirements or conditions,” Steward said in a letter to Daly. “There is no applicable state setback requirement that is relevant to this site.”

Pennichuck’s 6.5 million-gallon water tank on the property is also outside the development site, Steward said, and was reviewed when DES issued its alteration of terrain permit for the development.

Trees have been cut down on the property, and the stumps will be ground for re-use. Final grading on the property will begin in a few weeks.

Hayner/Swanson is required to continue issuing monitoring reports for the project, Steward said Wednesday, as the city and state will continue to review the development.

As of Wednesday, DES had only received two official inquiries from the public about the Parcel F development, those of Daly and Scontsas.

Scontsas could not be reached for this story.

Still dissatisfied with the state’s findings, Daly said he plans to meet with DES next week to get more questions answered.

“There’s nothing concrete, in my opinion, in his reply,” he said Thursday. “He said if we do meet, the agenda must be confined to compliance during construction. We have asked for these visits and these reviews prior to construction. … Is there a political agenda? Your guess is as good as mine.”

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