NASHUA — Aldermen on Monday put an end to a proposed ordinance that would have banned establishments from serving alcohol close to city schools.
The Board of Aldermen rejected the regulation, which would have prevented the Nashua VFW from acquiring an old firehouse on Arlington Street near the Dr. Norman W. Crisp Elementary School.
The former Crown Hill fire station has been considered by the Nashua VFW Post 483 as a new home for the post, which occasionally serves beer and liquor to its members and visitors.
With a vote of 4-9, the proposed ordinance was denied by aldermen, but not before one of the board members — a veteran — spoke in support of the proposal.
“First of all, I am a veteran,” said Alderman Paul Chasse. “I have nothing against the VFW individuals. I know the work they do.”
However, Chasse stressed that the ordinance is really about curbing alcohol near schools, not about the VFW and its possible relocation. If there was a proposal to open Paul’s Sports Bar at the same site, Chasse maintained that aldermen would overwhelmingly vote in opposition.
Chasse was one of the four aldermen to support the proposal, saying he never favored having alcohol available at Holman Stadium either, and feels the same way about the VFW near the local elementary school.
Despite his position, aldermen followed the advice of the aldermanic Planning and Economic Development Committee, which voted last month to recommend indefinite postponement of the ordinance.
The full board of aldermen also voted to indefinitely postpone the regulation, essentially killing the ordinance. Although city officials ultimately paved the way for the VFW to buy the old fire station, a VFW official said Monday that the acquisition could possibly be off the table if another location becomes available.
“I think at this point, if we got the fire building, we feel that it would be a target, unfortunately,” said Lewis Chipola of the local VFW. “It is not off the table completely, but it is on its way off the table.”
Chipola acknowledged that his group does have some reservations about the firehouse site and has a meeting planned Mayor Donnalee Lozeau on July 18 to study other possible locations that have not yet been disclosed.
Still, Chasse said the ordinance deserves further review in the future, and should have been tabled rather than indefinitely postponed.
Alderman Dan Moriarty said he voted against the proposal because there is no history of problems that need to be solved, adding that the veterans deserve extra consideration.
Alderman-at-Large Lori Wilshire, the prime sponsor of the ordinance, argued that there are no problems yet because there are no liquor licenses that close to a city school.
Alderman Diane Sheehan, a co-sponsor of the proposal, said previously that if the VFW does acquire the old fire house, the city will essentially have a liquor license in a carpool lane.
Both she and Wilshire said earlier that they could not support the VFW being housed at the vacant fire station if liquor was served so close to students. If a liquor license wasn’t granted, it would be a different situation, they agreed.
Other aldermen opposed to the ordinance said they felt deceived about how the proposal was presented, claiming it was drafted for a single purpose — to prevent the VFW from acquiring the fire station.