Altered project means delays

NASHUA – People who live near a proposed major housing complex at the site of the former WSMN radio station say they are fed up with having to trek down to City Hall every time developer John Picard revises the project.

Picard has revised the project at least twice. Each time, residents show up at City Hall only to find out the Zoning Board of Adjustment has rescheduled public hearings on the project.

“We have been dragged down there three times, first for the original plan, when we were bored to death, only to find out later the plan had been changed and we had to go back again,” said Kathy Rivard, of 26 Briarcliff Drive, at the rear of the 12.5-acre site.

Rivard said some residents considered sending a petition to the city but they decided to go through the newspaper, instead.

Picard and his lawyer, John Edwards of Boston, are unhappy with the delays, as well.

“We wanted this before the ZBA tonight,” on Jan. 13, when the last hearing was scheduled, Edwards said recently. “But the city said, ‘We don’t do business that way.’ They said the changes were so material so they couldn’t be dealt that Tuesday, so we had to withdraw our application and file a new one, which we did.”

The zoning board will consider Picard’s latest plan Feb. 10 at City Hall.

The revisions Picard now has proposed are calling for three 2.5-story apartment buildings with 36 units each and underground parking, instead of two four-story buildings with 64 units each.

Edwards said he hopes the changes will appease some neighbors, who have been vehemently opposed to the project from the start. He also said the revisions mean that about 60 percent of the property at 502 W. Hollis St. will be left undeveloped.

The developer also plans to convert the old radio station into general office space.

Picard calls the development “work force work housing” and hopes to secure financing for the project through the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department.

His company is now in bankruptcy because of a 40-unit cluster condominium development he never finished on the site. That project was approved by the city four years ago. He needs the HUD money to emerge from bankruptcy and pay $100,000 in owes in back taxes on the site.

Abutter Marilyn Pizzolon of 22 Pitarys Drive said she’ll continue to fight Picard because the WSMN site is within an R-9 zone, where only single-family homes can be built on lots measuring at 9,000 square feet.

That is one of the reasons Picard needs the zoning board to approve several variances for the project. Without city approval, the HUD money won’t be approved, his lawyer said.