Planners approve Main St. offices plan

NASHUA – A former rooming house with something of a checkered past will be expanded and converted into office space under a proposal approved by the Planning Board.

The board on Thursday voted 6-1 to endorse the plan by local real estate agents John and Mary Ann Picard to convert their building at 381 Main St. into offices and construct a 1,500-square-foot addition on the second floor.

Member Bill Slivinski voted against the plan, saying he was dissatisfied with the design of a new parking lot on the site.

“I think it’s just too crowded,’’ Slivinski said.

The Picards previously used the building as a rooming house, renting out rooms to city welfare clients, and drawing numerous complaints from neighbors about littering, public urination and drug use among tenants.

Now that the property will be used for offices, the board was primarily concerned about traffic getting in and out of the site.

According to project engineer Tim Watson, the site has two driveways. A driveway off Main Street will serve as the main access to the property. The other is off Stevens Street via an easement across an abutting lot, and that will provide access to the rear of the building.

The two driveways are not connected now, but a garage located at the rear of the site will be torn down to make full circulation possible, only for emergency vehicles. A gate will be erected to prevent drivers from using the parking lot as a shortcut from Main Street to other nearby downtown streets, planning officials said.

The Zoning Board of Adjustment approved the project last year and set down a condition that only right turns will be permitted for drivers leaving the lot onto Main Street. The Planning Board agreed that condition is important because turning left would be difficult and dangerous. Member Mike Lowe also asked that a hedge near the main driveway be trimmed to improve visibility for drivers.

“It’s a terrible site to get out of,” chairwoman Bette Lasky said.

Member Richard LaRose asked about drivers who will want to go north when leaving the property.

Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for the Picards, said drivers will have to go south to the new roundabout near Rivier College and then head north.

“You might think people are not going to take left turns out of there, but it is going to happen,” LaRose said.

The Picards are adding 11 new parking spaces to the site, for a total of 21.

Also, John Picard said he would erect a 6-foot stockade fence to separate his property from abutters who have let their homes fall into disrepair.