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September 24. 2012 11:58PM

National Guard has Windham at top of list for new facility

WINDHAM — Windham tops the list of possible sites for the New Hampshire National Guard’s new field maintenance shop.

Sen. Jim Rausch told selectmen Monday night that the National Guard considers the Applewood Golf Links property the best potential location for the facility so far based on a point scale. Other possible sites in Hooksett and Milton are also being reviewed.

“They are very in tune with what local communities are concerned about but they are the National Guard and they have a mission statement to fulfill,” Rausch said.

The estimated $20 million facility is proposed for the 28 acre parcel land located on Range Road near the Interstate 93 and Route 111 interchange. The facility needs 78,000 square feet and requires 10 acres of land. It would be used to store and repair vehicles.

The state Department of Transportation purchased the 28 acre parcel for about $3.7 million to use as a staging area for the Route 111 relocation project.

Rausch and other officials have expressed a desire to keep the parcel available for commercial development that will improve the tax base.

One drawback to the property is that the state DOT purchased land with $3.4 million in federal highway funds that must be reimbursed or waived by the federal government, Rausch said.

Rausch said he strongly suggested that the Guard look at other state-owned land that may meet their requirements but will not impact the communities as much. If another site is chosen the state can sell the Applewood land and use the $3.4 million reimbursement to complete I-93 work, he said.

Bob Young, chairman of the Windham Economic Development Committee, read a letter to the board urging “honest and best use within current zoning” so the town can realize its goals for successful economic development. It is estimated that if it were properly developed under current zoning and tax rate the parcel could generate $300,000 to $500,000 in tax revenue.

“Their concern is not with the National Guard, it’s with that piece of property,” said Bruce Breton, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

Selectman Phil LoChiatto reminded the Board that the parcel has been on the market for about eight years and may be difficult to develop under current zoning. The town needs to look at the zoning to make the property viable to a buyer, he said.

“I fully support the National Guard’s effort,” LoChiatto said. “I’m not prepared yet to say ‘not here.’”

A lot of options exist for the property, LoChiatto said.

Selectman Roger Hohenberger said the state’s timeframe has also impacted the town’s tax base. Applewood Golf Links is not renewing its lease at the end of the year because of uncertainty surrounding the future of the land, he said.

“It’s another part of Windham that’s going to be left vacant because the state can’t decide what needs to be done,” Hohenberger said.

Sitting back and waiting for the National Guard isn’t the answer, he said.

Windham businessman Al Letizio Jr., a member of the Windham Economic Development Committee, said the publicity surrounding the project has stirred other commercial interest in the property.

Proposals are being worked on, he said.

State Rep. Charles McMahon urged the board to voice their concerns to the state.

“This is not not supporting the National Guard,” McMahon said. “This is supporting the town of Windham.”

jhanson@newstote.com


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