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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Nashua aldermen table plan for 3 tracts on West Hollis Street

NASHUA – Three West Hollis Street parcels still may hold more than prime landfill views for their future owners.

After almost an hour of debate Tuesday, aldermen ping-ponged motions for a resolution to purchase land at 836, 844 and 848 W. Hollis Street for $650,000, from the table (passing 8-7), to final passage (failing 9-6), to indefinite postponement (failing 8-7), and back to the table (passing 8-7).

Voting in favor of the ultimate tabling Tuesday were Alderman-at-Large Brian McCarthy, and Aldermen Rick Dowd, Ward 2; Mary Ann Melizzi-Golja, Ward 8; Paul Chasse, Ward 6; Mike Tabacsko, Ward 5; Diane Sheehan, Ward 3; Kathy Vitale, Ward 1, and Art Craffey, Ward 4.

Voting against were Aldermen-at-Large Lori Wilshire, Jim Donchess, David Deane, Mark Cookson and Barbara Pressly; and Aldermen June Caron, Ward 7; and Dan Moriarty, Ward 9.

“Good meeting tonight,” Deane said following the vote. “We didn’t make a decision, but I thought it was a good, healthy meeting from the board. I think things went well.”

Mayor Donnalee Lozeau has said the 3.4 acres, assessed at $889,500, could change the way in and out of the dump and provide a landfill buffer for the Trestle Brook neighborhood in its immediate future. Its long-term purpose could be landing grounds for a consolidated Public Works facility.

In her remarks period Tuesday, Lozeau said buying the three parcels would be a wise investment for the city and Trestle Brook neighborhood residents. She compared putting off the purchase to the Executive Council’s unwillingness to spend $3 million in federal funds to study bringing rail to New Hampshire.

In past discussions of the project, Lozeau has estimated the consolidated Public Works facility could cost $15 million in bonding over a number of years down the road to build, although financial analysis for the potential project still is underway.

“We can operate with some of the premises of a business,” Lozeau said, pointing to the hundreds of acres the city already owns with the landfill. “A business would look at (the purchase) on its own merits and say, ‘That makes good business sense.’”

The Board of Public Works and the city’s Planning Board had each issued favorable recommendations of the legislation, while the aldermen’s Infrastructure Committee voted for indefinite postponement after it tabled the proposal twice.

But five Nashua residents spoke against the purchases before the board’s vote Tuesday.

Resident Mike Gallagher likened the land acquisition to his wife bringing home bags of “baubles and trinkets” that were simply bought because they were an “awesome deal.”

“You don’t know what you’re doing with it; you don’t have a need for it. Why buy it?” he said.

Two homes and a car garage sit on the three properties. Gallagher said those structures already exist as landfill buffers for the surrounding neighborhood.

“By purchasing this … it seems like the solution to a problem we don’t have,” he said. “It seems to me like there’s another agenda, that there’s another reason this is happening.”

Sheehan said the city has created a problem for Trestle Brook residents by building the landfill behind their homes after many homes already stood there, a problem the city should solve by buying the land.

Tabacsko, who represents the Trestle Brook neighborhood, said he was in favor of buying the properties as a good bargain for the city and to act as a good neighbor for the residents – not in favor of the potential consolidated Public Works facility.

Donchess argued he could only consider the land purchase and the facility as a single idea, and said aldermen have been given no plan for how much the consolidation would cost the city.

“It’s almost an impulse purchase,” he said. “I could think of 100 things I would spend money on before this.”

Wilshire, Cookson and Deane added that they had been contacted by residents asking them not to support the purchase.

Of the $650,000 proposed in the resolution, $500,000 would come 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 will come out of the fiscal 2012 general contingency fund to buy 848 W. Hollis St. from Robert and Gail Brown of Indiantown, Fla.

A bonus in the long-term plan – combining Public Works offices on Riverside Drive, a Parks and Recreation trailer by Greeley Park, another DPW site near Holman Stadium, and the Stadium Drive street offices and garage – could be the ability to allow Conway Ice Arena to expand to two sheets of ice.

Lozeau and Tabacsko first introduced the proposal at a March 15 Trestle Brook neighborhood Crime Watch meeting and found residents to be open to the idea, Tabacsko said. They had protested commercial developers eyeing the properties for a 10,000-square-foot convenience store and gas station.

“This land stands on its own merits, whether we ever put anything on it or not,” Lozeau said. “It makes some sense to look at protecting that neighborhood from potential commercial development.”

The purchase-and-sales agreements to buy the land were extended to May 30, Lozeau said.

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

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