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Nashua hospital, CVS both want site; public hearing urged

NASHUA - A public hearing is being urged in an ongoing dispute over city land being leased by a local hospital for overflow parking.

The city of Nashua now leases a parking lot at the corner of East Hollis Street and Hospital Drive to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. The nearby CVS pharmacy is hoping to use the site to expand.

A proposal has been filed that - if approved by the full Board of Aldermen - would authorize the city to enter into a ground lease agreement with CVS for the city-owned parking lot. The resolution is currently tabled in an aldermanic committee.

Last week, Alderman-at-Large James Donchess echoed comments from a concerned citizen, suggesting that a public informational meeting be held to collect more details and feedback.

"I believe there is a lot of public interest in this issue," Donchess said during a meeting of the aldermanic Finance Committee. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she agrees, explaining when information is available to be presented to the public, it will be.

"It is a balance between everybody's interests," Lozeau said, maintaining it is an opportunity for CVS to make that corner safer and more accessible.

The proposed legislation seeks a 25-year lease agreement with CVS, which includes four, five-year options. The monthly lease fee starts at $40,000 for the first five-year period, and increases in $5,000 increments for each five-year period thereafter.

Robert Desharnais of White Plains Drive, told the committee that the hospital parking - consisting of 80 parking stalls - should remain, saying there are other locations within Nashua that the pharmacy could purchase if it wants to expand.

"You the mayor and the aldermen have a fiduciary responsibility to do what is best for the citizens of Nashua and not what they may consider best for a business in Nashua," Desharnais told the board. He recommended that a public hearing be held to allow citizens to express their thoughts. He urged officials to allow the hospital to continue leasing the land, or possibly even purchase it with the stipulation that it remain parking.

The Finance Committee may revisit the issue at its next meeting on Dec. 5.

Several representatives from the city, CVS and Southern New Hampshire Medical Center met last Tuesday, according to Lozeau. Several aldermen were invited, which caused some concern.

Alderman-at-Large Barbara Pressly said that Lozeau's method of choosing who gets to be included in special project discussions is "rather exclusive."

"It is not a balance of geographical representation," Pressly argued.

Lozeau stressed that there was not a quorum of any committee in attendance. She said the board president and vice-president were asked to attend, along with the ward alderman and the economic development director.

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