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February 12. 2013 11:32PM

Nashua board approves land buy for proposed park and ride lot

NASHUA - Despite a local resident calling the purchase "political poison," city officials on Tuesday approved the acquisition of a downtown property that will be converted into a park and ride lot.

With a vote of 12-2, the board of aldermen supported the $1.4 million purchase of two parcels at 25 Crown St. that will be used as a park and ride facility and possibly, in the future, a train station.

Tuesday's vote took place one week after the Executive Council approved a $3.6 million rail study to determine whether bringing rail back to New Hampshire would be feasible.

The purchase of the land, which is currently used by Armstrong Cabinets, will be paid with a combination of federal funds and state toll credits.

A purchase and sale agreement was drafted months ago between the City of Nashua and Armstrong World Industries/Triangle Pacific Corp., and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau is hopeful that it can be closed on June 30.

Lozeau said previously that once the parcel is acquired by the city, officials will have time to pursue the train station option - once information from the completed rail study has been reviewed - while moving forward with the commuter park and ride lot. The lot, according to city officials, would house a maximum of 250 vehicles.

Alderman Dan Moriarty opposed the land purchase, saying that while he supports rail and would appreciate having a train station, a better location would be near Exit 2 in south Nashua.

"Let us not kid ourselves - this is about commuter rail," said Moriarty.

He maintained that a lot of upgrades would be needed to make the Crown Street property feasible, saying there is much more to the project than $1.4 million.

His fellow board member, Alderman Diane Sheehan, argued that the train station should be housed where mass transit is already located, noting the high volume of traffic near the Crown Street site.

"The infrastructure is there," Sheehan said, saying she supports the land buy.

Alderman Richard Dowd agreed, saying the opportunity far outweighs the risks. According to Lozeau, the location is ideal because it is the only downtown area where there is 800 feet of straight train track that already exists. Still, it could take at least six years for a train station to be operating from the site, as the city will have to overcome several obstacles, the mayor said earlier.

Once Armstrong moves out later this year, the city intends to lease two buildings on the site while the park and ride project moves forward.

Alderman Paul Chasse said he had serious reservations about the city becoming a landlord.

"I don't think we should be going down that avenue," said Chasse, who voted against the acquisition.

Jay Clair of Stanford Road pleaded with aldermen to reject the federal money for the land buy.

"I really think it is political poison," said Clair, stressing the nation is already facing $16.5 trillion in debt. Eventually, someone is going to have to pay back the $1.4 million being borrowed, he said, adding the Crown Street property is a poor location for a park and ride facility.

"The debt is breaking us," he said, asking the board to send a message to the federal government that the City of Nashua is going to be responsible and think about future generations.

khoughton@newstote.com


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