August 19. 2013 10:34PM

Landfill a hurdle for proposed Nashua credit union

Union Leader Correspondent

NASHUA — A new credit union may soon be built on West Hollis Street along the edge of the city's old landfill, but potential environmental issues will be reviewed before the project begins.

Ventura-Nashua LLC, based in Hammondsport, N.Y., owns the 8-acre site at 511 and 515 West Hollis St. Only 1 acre of the property is being proposed for the future Members First Credit Union of New Hampshire.

According to Bruce Leighton of the credit union, the land where the Cape Cod-style office building will be constructed does not actually sit on the inactive landfill, however a portion of the proposed parking lot will be located on the old dump."We have an environmental team that is working with us. We are cautiously optimistic that everything is OK there," Leighton said on Monday. "We have not made a public announcement about this yet, as we want to be cautious and err on the side of conservatism."

There are other developments nearby, including the YMCA of Greater Nashua on one corner of the old landfill and the Conway Arena ice hockey rink just behind it. Leighton said his team has been in touch with the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, adding everyone seems to be in agreement not to build directly on the landfill site, which has been inactive for several decades, but rather on its perimeter.

The Nashua Zoning Board of Adjustment is expected to address the issue next week. On Aug. 27, the board will consider whether to approve a use variance to allow the credit union and drive-through to be constructed in the park/industrial zone.

"We are not going to spend any money on this project until we get the variance," said Leighton, stressing his company is not involved with the remaining 7 acres that could possibly be subdivided if approved by the Nashua City Planning Board at a future date.

If the Zoning Board grants a variance, he said, the credit union would move forward with a full environmental testing plan to make sure nothing would be disturbed on the property during construction.

Hayner Swanson Inc. is engineering the project, which includes a 3,044-square-foot building and 21 parking spaces, according to plans on file at the city's community development office.

"The property's prior use as a landfill caused substantial environmental considerations to be present on the site. As a result of those special conditions, the property may not be suitable for many uses permitted within the Park Industrial District," says the file. "The property's proximity to the intersection of Riverside Street and West Hollis Street further requires a low impact use on the property to avoid overburdening of the traffic in the area."

The applicant maintains that the proposed credit union will complement the character of the neighborhood and offer improvements to some of the existing environmental conditions on the property and enhance the aesthetics of the site.The plot is currently undeveloped and contains dense vegetation, visible surface debris and some partially cleared areas, according to the application.

Preliminary estimates are that the credit union would employ about six to seven people and have about 80 daily visitors along with 15 commercial deliveries a week. Tentative hours of operation will be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturdays, with a 24-hour ATM drive-through.

Former alderman Paula Johnson said Monday that she has several concerns about the project, specifically whether there may asbestos located on the site.

"What is lying underneath there and how will it be removed? How will it leach once the earth is disturbed? These are questions that we need to get answered," said Johnson. "There is asbestos everywhere in this city, so I think we need to look at this closely."

Bill Feinstein of Ventura-Nashua LLC was unavailable to comment on the future development.

The old landfill has been inactive for at least 30 years. In 1985, a request for a special exception to permit a bark mulch and topsoil operation at the site was eventually withdrawn.

The following year, a special exception was denied by the Zoning Board that would have allowed storage and display of construction equipment on the property. According to zoning files on record at Nashua City Hall, the construction storage project was rejected because it was out of character with the surrounding neighborhood and would have impaired the integrity of the neighborhood.

A public hearing will be held on the credit union project on Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at Nashua City Hall. The building would be the fourth Members First Credit Union in New Hampshire, with two branches in Manchester and one in Franklin.