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January 23. 2013 11:02PM

Nashua land purchase supported for possible train station

NASHUA - An aldermanic committee on Wednesday gave its support to the proposed acquisition of two parcels on Crown Street that could be used for a park-and-ride lot and a downtown train station.

Continuing the city's quest to bring rail back to Nashua, the Committee on Infrastructure recommended a resolution to acquire a $1.4 million downtown property using a combination of federal funds and state toll credits.

"There are not many opportunities to plan ahead for things like this," said Mayor Donnalee Lozeau. " . We were just so fortunate."

Ultimately, the full board of aldermen will have to support the purchase of the property at 25 Crown St., currently the home of Armstrong Cabinets, before a purchase and sale agreement could be finalized. An agreement has already been drafted between the city and Armstrong World Industries/Triangle Pacific Corp., which originally offered the property to the city for $1.8 million but reduced the price to $1.4 million during negotiations.

Aldermen had several concerns about the proposal on Wednesday, including the lack of a traffic study and the urgency to purchase the site now.

Alderman Dan Moriarty, Ward 9, raised several issues with the proposal and suggested a better location might be near Exit 2.

"I am not convinced that we need to buy this now," said Moriarty, stressing that he still supports the idea of bringing rail through Nashua. He also suggested that the Crown Street property could possibly be acquired by eminent domain in the future.

Alderman Richard Dowd, Ward 2, argued the Crown Street location is ideal for a future train station and asked his fellow aldermen to support the purchase.

"I would love to see trains come back to Nashua," he said.

The proposed land purchase has been tabled in committee for several months, but it was taken up by city officials on Wednesday because the purchase and sale agreement expires at the end of the month.

In addition, Lozeau said the capital budget overview committee's recent vote to pursue the statewide rail study served as a catalyst for the recommended land acquisition.

"There are multiple things that (still) have to happen," said Lozeau, noting that 800-feet of straight train track already exists in that location.

Alderman-at-large Mark Cookson asked several questions about the site and how a train station might affect traffic patterns and home values in the area.

"I think the neighborhood is going to be impacted by this," Cookson said.

Lozeau said that once the parcel is acquired by the city, officials would still have time to pursue the train station option while moving forward with the commuter park-and-ride lot, which would likely contain about 200 parking spots but with the potential for up to 700.

"We are talking, probably best-case scenario, six years for a train station," she said.

Admitting the purchase is a risk, Lozeau said it is an opportunity that should not be overlooked. She said the city can lease two buildings on the property while the rail attempt moves forward.

Local resident Bob Burgess said he was strongly opposed to the land acquisition, arguing a park-and-ride lot should be located closer to the highway and not in the center of the city.

"This isn't serving the city any good," he said, urging aldermen to wait until the rail study is complete to determine whether a train station would be feasible. "I think we are jumping the gun."

khoughton@newstote.com

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