By CHELSEY POLLOCK
Union Leader Correspondent
DERRY — The Derry Town Council officially initiated the eminent domain proceedings necessary to seize both the land and building that currently house Pinkerton Tavern Wednesday night to allow for an expansion of Route 28
As of Wednesday, the Tavern property at 13 Manchester St. was only one of the 15 properties along the three-quarter mile stretch of Route 28 that had yet to reach an agreement with the town.
After months of silence, Sullivan Tire at 4 Ashleigh Dr. told town officials Wednesday that they were willing to give up the 1,384-square feet necessary for expansion, said Derry Public Works Director Mike Fowler. The property had earlier been slated for similar eminent domain action.
Of the 15 properties to be affected by the widening, Pinkerton Tavern is the most difficult case, Fowler has said, because it is the only building directly in the way of the expansion and because it has separate property and business owners.
Both owners spoke during the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, a first time addressing the council directly on the matter.
Jennifer Lutzen, who owns Pinkerton Tavern business with her husband Guy Streitburger, said the years-long expansion discussions have made it difficult for the pair to plan ahead for their restaurant and catering operations.
“I came here tonight to express some frustration over how the project has affected our business, our employees, our customers and our ability to make business decisions when faced with such an uncertain future,” Lutzen said. “... Imagine if your hands were tied like that at work how would you feel?”
Arnold Goldstein of Bedford, who owns the Pinkerton Tavern property and building, expressed his frustration over the town’s insistence that he terminate his 20-year lease agreement with Lutzen and Streitburger before turning over the property.
Further, Goldstein said Wednesday that he took issue with a July reappraisal of the property, which he said dropped the town’s proposed offer from $910,000 to $700,000.
“Real estate has generally declined in value, but in our particular area there’s all kinds of excited development and I reject the idea that it’s really like the other comps they’ve cited,” Goldstein said. “I want to express the fact that I still would welcome the opportunity to negotiate without going through eminent domain, but I hope the price would be somewhere near the (first) appraised value.” Citing the property’s $627,300 assessed value on file, Councilor Kevin Coyle said he thought the $700,000 offer was more than fair to Goldstein.
Likewise, council Chairman Brad Benson said he saw eminent domain proceedings as the only way to keep widening efforts on track.
“We have one property in the whole area that we haven’t settled and we need to settle it so we can move forward with construction and the process we need to follow is the process in front of us,” Benson said. “If they can still settle this and reach an agreement they can, but then if not the clock is started so we can move forward.”
Following a brief discussion where Councilor Janet Fairbanks said she didn’t think the town’s widening plan would truly address bottleneck issues in the area, the council voted 6-1 in favor of condemning the property.
Fairbanks voted against the measure.
Fowler said the town will extend a final offer to Goldstein before the issue moves to the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals for a final payment decision.
At the conclusion of Wednesday’s discussion, Town Administrator John Anderson told Goldstein and Lutzen he hoped all sides could continue to work toward an agreement.
By law, the town will have to provide some financial compensation to move the Pinkerton Tavern business, but not the building, to another location. Exactly what will happen to the physical structure has yet to be decided.
Outside the meeting, Goldstein said he expected the council would move forward with eminent domain.
“I didn’t think I’d talk them out of it, but I thought it was important to come down and complain a little bit because I don’t think the town is being fair,” Goldstein said.
But Lutzen, who said she didn’t want to comment on the case, said she appreciated Anderson’s words.
“He did take the time to say that the lines of communication are open, and I’m encouraged by that,” she said.