Planning Board says no to drum corps

NASHUA – Saying it had to stick by a stipulation that limits the use of Stellos Stadium to youth sports, the Planning Board denied a request from the Spartans Drum and Bugle Corps to host a competition at the stadium July 5.

The board’s vote Thursday night was 6-2, with City Engineer Steve Dookran and Ward 2 Alderman Richard LaRose voting against the motion to deny the request. Mayor Bernie Streeter supported the Spartans’ plan, but his representative on the board, Mike Lowe, voted to deny it.

“I made the original stipulation, and if the aldermen want to change it, they have the prerogative to change it,” Lowe said. “I’m not going to do it. We made a commitment, and that commitment should stand.”

Chairwoman Bette Lasky said the board had no choice but to adhere to the stipulation, which was set down in 2001 as a compromise with residents who opposed the plan to build the stadium on Riverside Street, just off West Hollis Street and close to several neighborhoods.

“I feel we have to honor what has been put on this plan, this stipulation,” Lasky said. “To me, it’s like an ordinance, and I am here to honor the laws of the city.”

The board lifted the condition last year for a special event that featured top-flight drum and bugle corps from throughout the country as part of the city’s sesquicentennial celebration.

When the board cleared the way for that show a year ago, Streeter and other city officials promised it would be a one-time-only event.

Peter LaFlamme, executive only event. Peter LaFlamme, executive director of the Spartans, said last year’s event at Stellos went off without a hitch.

“There were absolutely no problems with that event,’’ he said, adding that there was no reason that another show shouldn’t be permitted this year.

LaFlamme said both the Parks and Recreation Department and school officials supported the request. Mark Conrad, the school district’s business administrator, and Board of Education member Rick Dowd both were at Thursday’s meeting to testify in favor of the plan.

But neighbors of the stadium said a deal is a deal. Noise from the stadium remains a problem, several said. Some said having the stadium close to their homes devalues their property. All said the city should live up to its promise to limit use of the stadium.

Jim Pullen of 17 Radcliffe Drive and his neighbors John Bieren and Ann Kline were among those who said the Spartans show shouldn’t be allowed to go on. Pullen said he travels to Boston to work and has to get up at about 4 a.m.

“Is that fair to me? To cut into my sleep time?” he said. “Is it fair to wake up my child? I don’t want to go to bed with drums banging in my head.”

The event would feature drum and bugle corps made up of youths and young adults from the ages of 14 to 20. Several neighbors said 20-year-olds aren’t youths, and their participation in the show would violate the restriction that the stadium be used for youth sports.

“My concern is my taxes are going up, and my property values are going down,” said Bieren, who also lives on Radcliffe Drive.

Ward 1 Alderman Kathy Vitale, whose constituents are affected by the stadium because noise drifts across the Nashua River to neighborhoods off Broad Street, urged the board to approve the Spartans’ request.

“The Spartans represent something the city should be proud of,” Vitale told the board.

Ward 5 Alderman David Lozeau, who represents the area near the stadium, agreed with Vitale.

Saying he was speaking as a resident and not as a city official, Lozeau told the board, “When the drum and bugle corps is there, music is playing, and, to me, music is not noise.”