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October 02. 2012 9:24PM

Veterans say pleas for land rejected

A business that specializes in sand-and-gravel operations has purchased a 7-acre lot across the entrance from the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen, prompting alarm from cemetery advocates and some in the veterans community.

Cemetery supporters said they're not certain what eventual plans Piontkowski Enterprises LLC has for the land. In June, the company acquired the land after outbidding a nonprofit organization associated with the cemetery.

And the company has rebuffed offers from the New Hampshire Veterans Cemetery Association to sell the land, even at a $150,000 profit, said Pat Bernard, president of the Cemetery Association.

So far, Piontkowski has received Boscawen Planning Board approvals to finish two storage units the previous owner had started on the property and build two more, according to online minutes.

An office/maintenance building was also approved, as well as bins that will be used to store and sell crushed rock and sand to customers. The Cemetery Association questions whether that is appropriate.

“There's an aspect when you're driving up to the cemetery, what do you see and hear?” Bernard said.

She said she's trying to find a win-win solution that would allow her group to control the land and for Piontkowski to walk away happy. But she also acknowledges that Piontkowski is angry at her group after it did not speak in favor of the company to the Boscawen Planning Board.

All Piontkowski has offered to do is sell a half-acre directly across from the cemetery driveway for $295,000, said Robert Dastin, a Manchester lawyer and retired general who is on the Cemetery Association board.

Efforts to reach the company were not successful Tuesday night.

Bernard said her organization hopes to build an Education Center on the land, and had bought a 3.3-acre adjoining parcel. When the larger piece went up for auction in June, Piontkowski outbid the Cemetery Association's $225,000 bid by $25,000.

“We miscalculated for sure,” Bernard said, noting the Cemetery Association did not know about Piontkowski until the day of the auction.

On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Veterans Advisory Council said it would support the Cemetery Association in its efforts. But state Rep. Alfred Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, a member of the council, said the state would not be able to use eminent domain to seize the land from Piontkowski.

Bernard said she's looking for ideas from people across the state. She said an Education Center would provide overflow parking on days such as Veterans Day. It would also provide a reception area for families after they buried their loved ones.

mhayward@unionleader.com

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