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May 16. 2014 12:53AM

Nashua playground public hearing request denied

NASHUA — Just as the dust was settling on the controversial debate over where to locate the future Legacy Playground, a second attempt by a city alderman to schedule a public hearing on the matter was denied.

This week, Alderman-at-Large Diane Sheehan requested that the Board of Aldermen schedule a public hearing on a proposed resolution to place what would become a fully accessible playground — the largest of its kind in New Hampshire — at Greeley Park.

“We are not allowed to take a vote until we have had one,” Sheehan said of the public hearing.

Several aldermen argued the public hearing should be put on hold until an independent consultant, the Institute for Human Centered Design in Boston, presents its findings to the city. That study is underway to examine about 10 different city locations to determine where the playground’s structure would be best suited.

Once the study is finished, Attorney Stephen Bennett, who has been working with representatives for the Boston-based organization, said it will be up the board to schedule a date when they can present their findings to city officials. Bennett has been providing the organization with maps and environmental documents on select parks within the city. He said three people are working on the study, which he anticipates will take about three weeks to complete.

It would be premature to schedule a public hearing now, according to Alderman-at-Large James Donchess, who said it would be more transparent and effective if the study’s results were available at the same time. He stressed that there already have been multiple roundtable discussions, presentations and public speaking opportunities about the issue.

Scheduling a public hearing now would reignite what has become a “divisive, bitter argument,” claimed Donchess.

The board denied Sheehan’s request, voting 9-4 against holding a hearing now.

“To me, it feels obstructionist,” said Sheehan. “ … It shouldn’t be drama to pick a date.”

The public hearing could be scheduled several weeks in advance, Sheehan said, which would allow the study’s results to be finalized in the meantime.

“I am not going to prolong the agony of this,” David Deane, president of the Board of Aldermen, reassured Sheehan, saying he will work with committee chairmen to eventually set a public hearing date.

Leadership Greater Nashua has been fundraising to collect $250,000 to develop Legacy Playground in the city, even though its location has yet to be determined. Although organizers favor placing it at Greeley Park, a plan supported by the Board of Public Works, some residents are opposed to building the play structure at Greeley.

Opponents and supporters of the Greeley Park location have attended numerous meetings to voice their opinions on the site, which must be approved by the Board of Aldermen because of a building moratorium at the park.

khoughton@newstote.com





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