February 06. 2013 9:31PM

Rail study serves as catalyst for Nashua land buy

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA - The board of aldermen is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to purchase two parcels of land on Crown Street that can be used as a park-and-ride lot and possibly a future train station.

Wednesday night, the aldermanic finance committee supported the proposed $1.4 million acquisition of the downtown property, a vote taken just hours after the Executive Council approved a $3.6 million rail study.

"They voted, 4 to 1, to move forward with the rail study," Mayor Donnalee Lozeau told elected officials. In light of the recent action taken in Concord, the Finance Committee decided to take the Crown Street proposal off the table and address it promptly.

"That is really what we have been waiting for," Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said of the state's green light for a rail study.

Pressly encouraged her fellow committee members to move forward with the vote so the full board of aldermen can finally vote on the proposal at its Tuesday meeting.

The committee supported the proposed resolution with little discussion. Alderman Paul Chasse, Ward 6, was the only member who voted in opposition.

Last month, the aldermanic committee on infrastructure also recommended the $1.4 million land acquisition at 25 Crown St., which will be paid for using a combination of federal funds and state toll credits.

"There are not many opportunities to plan ahead for things like this," Lozeau said at the time, adding it is a fortunate proposition for the city.

The property is currently being utilized by Armstrong Cabinets. A purchase and sale agreement was drafted months ago between the City of Nashua and Armstrong World Industries/Triangle Pacific Corp.

Lozeau explained previously that once the parcel is acquired by the city, officials would still have time to pursue the train station option while moving forward with the commuter park-and-ride lot, which would likely house about 200 parking spots but would have the potential for up to 700.

Recently, some elected officials expressed concerns about the land purchase, including the lack of a traffic study and the urgency to buy the site now.

Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9, voiced several concerns about the proposal, saying that while he would appreciate having a downtown train station, a better location might be near Exit 2.

"I am not convinced that we need to buy this now," Moriarty said last month, stressing he still supports the idea of bringing rail through Nashua but believes the Crown Street property could possibly be acquired by eminent domain in the future.

According to Lozeau, the Crown Street location is ideal because it is the only downtown area where there is 800-feet of straight train track that already exists.

Still, it could take at least six years for a train station to be operating from the site, as the city will have to overcome several obstacles, the mayor said earlier.

Meanwhile, the city can lease two buildings on the property while the rail attempt moves forward, she said.

Tuesday's aldermen's meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at Nashua City Hall.