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800 acres donated to Hooksett could include site for school

HOOKSETT - As a zoning part of a deal struck with the town, Manchester Sand and Gravel will donate more than 800 acres of land to Hooksett for public use and conservation, including a site designated as a possible "future school."

As a part of the zoning agreement MS&G secured with the town in 2000 to develop a large swath of land in the north end of the town, the company agreed to donate hundreds of acres to Hooksett for various purposes, one of which is the 80-acre "future school site."

After eight years of walking sites, a property just east of the town library was selected by MS&G and the Hooksett School District as "workable."

The property was accepted by the Hooksett School Board on Dec. 4, and will be deeded to the school district within two years to develop and manage "as they see fit."

What the district will build on the land, or whether they well develop it at all, however, has not been decided.

"It hasn't even been discussed," said SAU 15 Superintendent Charles P. Littlefield. "The whole idea is this: Manchester Sand and Gravel is willing to provide the school district with a school site for a future school building, if it's needed. At this point in time, there doesn't appear to be an immediate need, and if there were a future need it would be difficult to speculate what need would be. . For now, we'll just have the land."

Hooksett has no high school of its own, relying instead on a tuition contract with the Manchester School District, with the vast majority of their high school students (404 out of 686) attending Manchester High School Central. Recently, however, budgetary and classroom overcrowding issues in the city have prompted the town to reconsider the arrangement.

The town's school board voted to hold the city in "breach of contract" on Dec. 4, and is attempting to negotiate an early release from the contract, with the intention of sending their students to another area school.

Building a high school is not out of the question for the site, however. Campbell noted that a plot of about 40 acres was offered to the district initially, but was rejected because the plot could not sustain a high school.

Manchester Sand and Gravel owns 3,200 acres of land in town. The Head Pond portion, a 1,200-acre piece of land east of Route 3 stretching to the town's northern border with Allenstown, is being developed by MS&G into industrial, retail and residential sites, with 428 housing units slated to be built.

The original zoning agreement, reached when the company applied to be a part of the town's master plan, required MS&G to donate approximately 30 percent of the property. Instead, MS&G has agreed to donate more than 70 percent of the holdings, which include the school site, and conservation areas.

In addition, 250 acres will be donated to the town to be developed as a town common, which will include a village green, a grass amphitheater, and a bandstand.

"We far exceeded the zoning requirements. We had zoning requirements that required us to make donations totaling 30 percent of the land, and we flipped it around," said David Campbell, Manchester Sand and Gravel's attorney. "The whole project is developed more as a village concept, not just as another subdivision in the woods. . The conservation component is probably as big a conservation donation as has ever been made in the state in terms of acreage."

"They're good corporate citizens," said Town Administrator Dean Shankle. "They've been cooperative on a lot. They own a lot of land and they've always been willing to be reasonable about its use."

Manchester Sand & Gravel has a history of donating land to the town for public use. The Peter Brook Park soccer fields and the Hooksett Safety Center, which opened in 2003 and 1997, respectively, were built on donated Manchester Sand and Gravel land.

bclogston@newstote.com


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