Committee to consider sale of 20-acre property off Wellington Road to Nashua developer

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View of the front-end of a 20-acre wooded parcel as visible from Wellington Road. A sale is pending to Stabile Companies. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – If you were dreaming of what you might do with 20+ wooded acres of prime real estate in the city, dream no more. The parcel, owned by the city for the past 84 years – purchased in 1940 with the idea it might serve as a tank location for the Manchester Water Works – is set to be sold to the Stabile Companies of Nashua for $2 million, pending approval by the Board of Aldermen.

It’s one of the items on Monday night’s Committee on Lands and Buildings that is expected to generate income for the city. In this instance, the large tract, just off Wellington Road, is zoned R1-A single-family residential. Manchester Water Works Director Phil Croasdale is asking that proceeds from the sale be set in a reserve account to be used toward the costs of future relocation of the Lincoln Street Administration Building and Garage to adjacent the Lake Massabesic Water Treatment Plant on Lake Shore Road. The city’s assessed valuation of the property was listed at $1,012,600 as of November 2023. 

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Aerial view of the 20-acre parcel of land off Wellington Road.  A pending sale to Stabile Companies for development has been recommended by Manchester Water Works, which currently owns the property. Image/City of Manchester

More surplus property sales

Another agenda item for the April 15 meeting involving surplus city property includes a request by Mayor Jay Ruais that the committee approve the public sale of 26 lots comprising 18 sites to generate tax revenue. As noted in correspondence from Ruais in the meeting packet, he is asking that 50% of profits from the sale of these surplus lots go into the city’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.

The city’s Director of Planning and Community Development Jeffrey Belanger says it’s up to the full board to make a final determination on whether some or all of those parcels be surplus.

“If the committee makes that recommendation tonight then it goes to the full board, and once that happens they are deemed unnecessary to the city and the process of selling them will take place, likely through public auction or standard sale to a developer,” says Belanger.

Whatever revenue is generated depends on the value of the properties – some being more valuable than others – but the sales will boost the Affordable Housing Trust Fund – a good thing, Belanger says – which currently has a balance of upwards of $250,000.

“The trust fund is not used all that frequently. Money trickles in and occasionally gets used by aldermen for things related to affordable housing,” Belanger says. Over the past five year it has mostly been tapped for supporting emergency shelters in the city at Families in Transition and the 1269 Cafe, for example.

Residents Should Have a Right to Know

Although the sale of city-owned property is up to the city, resident Bryan Dexter, who lives near the Wellington Road tract, says it would have been nice for neighbors to know about the city’s intention to sell the land before it was basically a done deal.

Below: A letter from Mayor Ruais to the Committee on Lands and Buildings. It includes descriptions and images of surplus parcels the city would like to sell.

“The Lake Massabesic Overlay Protection District has seen dramatic changes over the last few years and people should be informed on how this sale may affect the area,” says Dexter, who bought a home in the area in 2011 after moving from downtown.
“One of the reasons we moved to this area is due to ample open space buffering noise, traffic and helping water drainage.  There is a stream on the property that flows south across Wellington Road and ultimately crosses Route 101 and empties into the Massabesic,” Dexter says. “I have seen bobcats, deer, foxes, coyotes and turkeys on the property.  It is a steep wooded lot, right next to the church.”

Residents have a right to know the city’s plans for “sprawl” and should be part of the conversation, he says.

“I feel if folks in the area that were enjoying the land for what it is – woodlands – knew it was to be developed and it is at the city’s oversight, these residents would be upset to see continued sprawl in this area,” Dexter says.  “There have been several cul-de-sacs – and recently a gas station – popping up along Wellington Road, and the density is starting to become unwieldy and houses shoe-horned in for revenue without ample consideration.”

He noted that traffic is also a concern as Wellington Road has become a “major cut-through” to get to 101 East and 93 South.

And while Dexter acknowledges the need for more affordable housing, this particular pending sale to a commercial developer will not address that need.

“I realize we have a housing issue but we also need to respect the quality of life for those who invested in the area for what it is, or was,” Dexter says.  “I was under the assumption the property was protected for water management and a multi-use greenway due to it being owned by Water Works.  They own other parcels further down Wellington Road which could be built up too, which would further erode the area.”

Dexter points to a development underway off Karatzas Avenue, which is directly across the street from the 20-acre parcel. There a large area has been clear-cut and appears ready for construction.

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View from the Linda Lane dead-end where woods have been clear-cut in preparation for a development. Photo/Carol Robidoux

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View of land cleared at the end of Karatzas Avenue in advance of development. Photo/Carol Robidoux

“There’s already a large subdivision going in off Karatzas Avenue and you can see the potential effects at the end of Linda Lane,” Dexter says.
He also feels that the way the property was listed for sale on the New England Commercial Property Exchange – with potential for multi-family even though it’s currently zoned single-family – is concerning, and done in such a way that it prevented residents who might have objections to know – until it’s too late.

“The concern is abutters having a say in what happens in their neighborhood.  My concern is the City has a plan to sell off land for revenue and subsequent tax revenue while degrading the surrounding area to keep the ‘affordable housing’ narrative going,” Dexter says. “It’s kind of upsetting the city does not value these open spaces more. It seems like they just see them as something that is not making money and a burden.  Once these properties are gone and built up there’s no turning back.”

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About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!