5/27/2007

Parkway price jumps $1 million: Concord NH Monitor, 5/19/07

City begins process to seize home

By Chelsea Conaboy

The price tag on Langley Parkway will be at least $1 million more than city officials expected due to higher construction costs and an ongoing court dispute.

The latest estimate for building the road, which will provide drivers a route from Interstate 89 to Concord Hospital and the West End that avoids much of Clinton and South Fruit streets, is $8.175 million.

Associate Engineer Martha Drukker said the city is still talking with its partners, Concord Hospital and St. Paul's School, about who will pay the extra cost. Many of the hospital's employees would commute on the road. After it's built, the school will be closed to through traffic.

"What they have acknowledged is that the overruns are justifiable and . . . the benefits of the project are worth the additional cost," Drukker said.

The project, which has been a goal of the city for more than half a century, needs more excavation work than expected, she said. And the city is still embroiled in a legal battle in which opponents to the project argue that a permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers defies several federal regulations.

Among the plaintiffs are Morton and Carolyn Tuttle. Their home at 257 Pleasant St. sits at the point where the new road will intersect with Pleasant Street. After years of negotiating with the Tuttles to find a place to move the home, the city last month started the formal process of taking the property by eminent domain.
As construction vehicles worked their way from Clinton Street toward the Tuttles' home during construction last year, crews found "very deep" pockets of loam, topsoil and buried stumps that had to be excavated and refilled, Drukker said.

"In order to build the road, you have to get down to a stable material," she said.

The material had to be dug out and replaced with sand and gravel mixtures. That and other increases for fuel costs and miscellaneous expenses, such as added flaggers, have cost an extra $630,000, Drukker said. She rounded up to $700,000 in an itemized explanation presented to city councilors last week.

"There's still a lot of unknowns," she said.

Among the other added expenses are $70,000 for legal fees, $35,000 for water monitoring, $6,000 for historical consultant fees and $170,000 for moving the Tuttle house.

The city council last June authorized the staff to take property connected to the parkway construction by eminent domain when necessary. City staff have tried to find a place the Tuttles would agree to.

The Cape Cod house, which has been owned by the family since 1935, is on the National Register of Historic Places. Morton Tuttle's father, Don, was a pioneer of winter tourism in New Hampshire and editor of the popular promotional magazine the New Hampshire Troubadour.

Conditions laid out between the city and the Tuttles, and from the Division of Historical Resources, require that the lot be comparable in size to the Tuttles' half acre, include city water and sewer, allow for the Tuttles' sun room to face south and be an appropriate setting. Since the late 1990s, the city has looked at and ruled out 19 lots.

In 2002 the city paid $95,000 for a lot at 12 Gabby Lane in the South End near the Bow town line intended for the house. The Tuttles however, want to stay in the West End, where both were raised. The city hasn't been able to find an alternative in that neighborhood.

The city issued a declaration of taking April 12, which starts the process of eminent domain. Attorney Tupper Kinder, who represents the city in the Army Corps case and now in the eminent domain procedures, said the city essentially owns the property now and could move the house on or after July 9.

"I think it's fair to say that the city is sympathetic to the Tuttles," Kinder said. "We're unhappy that we weren't able to reach some kind of agreement with them that would have been easier for everybody, but the circumstances are what they are. The house has to move."

The Tuttles' son, Don, who lives in Goffstown said he's still looking for options. He said there's a property "that is potentially very attractive" that he's talked to city staff about.

"Gabby Lane is not an option as far as we're concerned at this point," he said.

But Drukker said any alternative lot would have to keep the city on schedule and within the projected cost of moving to the South End.

"At this point," she said, "we're planning to go to Gabby Lane."

Even if the Tuttles don't want to remain in their home once it's moved, the house must be preserved because of its historic significance. In its filing with the Board of Land and Tax Appeals to take the property, the city suggested a purchase price of $220,000.

The Tuttles have until May 31 to file objections disputing the necessity of the taking. If they do, the case would go to the superior court.

Drukker said she's hoping for a final ruling on the Army Corps case this summer. The court recently denied a motion to stop construction until the case is decided.


Concord NH Monitor: http://www.concordmonitor.com