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Plans for Kingsbury property pitched to Keene board

Housing. Restaurants. A brewpub. A bank. Space for the DMV. Maybe a pond and a pedestrian trail.

Those are among the elements of a conceptual plan to redevelop the old Kingsbury Corp. land, a 22-acre former industrial site in Keene that has long preoccupied city officials.

James P. Phippard of Brickstone Land Use Consultants, LLC, who’s working with property owner Brian J. Thibeault, presented the plan to the Keene Planning Board Monday evening.

The plan is not a formal proposal, but simply lays out a general idea of what the property could become. Phippard asked the planning board for informal feedback and sounded out members on the zoning tweaks the plan might require.

The Kingsbury property came up frequently in City Council and committee meetings this spring, as councilors threatened to take the property for back taxes and discussed a stalled environmental assessment and other concerns.

Thibeault, a Manchester-based businessman who bought the land at a foreclosure auction in 2013, recently made a payment of about $100,000 and submitted a plan to pay another $470,000 in the next four months. He has also agreed to let the environmental assessment proceed.

On Monday, Phippard said he wasn’t there to discuss any of that — only the potential to redevelop the site.

The plan would put a mixed-use development on the east side of the property along Laurel Street, which would connect with a planned extension of Victoria Street.

One side of Laurel Street would house several standalone commercial spaces, while a cluster of smaller residential and commercial spaces, including offices and restaurants, would go up across the street.

While he doesn’t have specific occupants lined up for most of that space, Phippard mentioned a few possibilities. He said a Massachusetts-based bank is interested in opening a drive-thru on a part of the land abutting Marlboro Street. He also has interest from a local auto-body store looking to expand and a developer hoping to open a brewpub, he said.

He’s trying to interest the N.H. Division of Motor Vehicles in an office space as well, he said. A piece of the concrete slab under the existing 300,000-square-foot manufacturing facility — expected to be razed this summer — could be left intact and used as a driver training area, Phippard said.

As for the western corner of the property, Phippard recommended turning it into housing because it abuts a residential neighborhood.

In between is Beaver Brook and open space that could be used for flood storage, perhaps by turning it into a pond, Phippard said.

He added that a public trail along the brook — where the city is negotiating an expanded easement — would be a nice addition and connect to the existing rail trail.

But to execute the concept laid out Monday, Phippard said, would require some changes to the zoning district covering the property. That district, business growth and re-use, was one of three new districts the city created in 2017 as part of an effort to revitalize the Marlboro Street corridor.

He asked planning board members if they are open to amending the zoning ordinance to accommodate the sort of development he’s pitching.

“If we’re restricting it to high-tech companies and industrial users, I think it’s gonna be a long, long time,” Phippard said. “… These types of uses I’ve been showing you here, there’s developers today that are interested when the property’s ready.”

Planning board members signaled they were open to considering changes, but said it’s too early to weigh in with much specificity.

“Certainly, it’s a start,” Mayor Kendall W. Lane, who sits on the board as an ex-officio member, said after the meeting. “But I don’t know how much of it is real, how much of it is actual developers that might come forward.”

He said a discussion of potential zoning changes can’t happen before additional details about the project are known.

City officials have long talked about redeveloping the Kingsbury property — a large parcel near downtown, in an area they have targeted for investment.

The site formerly housed the Kingsbury Corp., a machine-tool manufacturer that once employed more than 1,000 people. It filed for bankruptcy in 2011, decades after its heyday, rocked by the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

The property carries a six-figure property-tax debt, most of which Thibeault inherited when he bought it in 2013. The possibility of tax deeding — the city taking the property for back taxes — has loomed over recent City Council discussions. Earlier this year, three city councilors proposed moving forward with that process, saying Thibeault has not been responsive to the city’s efforts at cooperation.

Thibeault’s recently submitted payment plan came after months of negotiations and periodic City Council discussions.

After his $100,000 payment in May, the amount owed as of today is $888,490.67. That could be reduced if he grants easements to the city.

Another ongoing concern has been contamination. After a century of industrial use, multiple environmental issues have been documented or suspected, and a federally funded environmental assessment is underway.

Phippard said the potential developers he has talked to are not scared off by that.

“These experienced developers are saying, ‘We can’t develop a site in a city, in an urban area, that doesn’t have some contamination to deal with,’ ” he said. “We know that. We’re not afraid of it; our lenders aren’t afraid of it.”


Sierra Hubbard / Sentinel Staff 

Bassist Jeff Kolter of local band Omoo Omoo dons some funky face paint for the group’s performance at the Walldogs mural festival Saturday in Keene.


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Retired Army general announces Senate challenge to Shaheen

Retired Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc announced Monday he will run for U.S. Senate against incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

Bolduc (pronounced BALL-duck) a Republican from Stratham, served in the Army for 36 years and did 10 tours of duty in Afghanistan, according to a news release from his campaign.

The announcement came at the VFW in Concord.

Bolduc, 57, is the first Republican to declare a 2020 challenge to Shaheen, a Democrat who served three terms as governor from 1997 until 2003. After losing her first U.S. Senate bid to John E. Sununu in 2002, Shaheen unseated him in 2008 and was re-elected to another six-year term in 2014.

Speaking over the phone Monday evening, Bolduc said a “crisis of leadership” in Washington and encouragement from fellow Granite Staters led him to run for office for the first time.

“After I would speak, a Granite Stater or someone else would come up to me and say, ‘Hey listen, you should probably think about running for public office,’ ” Bolduc said. “I was humbled by those comments, but didn’t give it much thought. ... But the more people I talked to, the more I got a sense that I could bring leadership where leadership is needed in Washington, D.C.”

Bolduc said he’s frustrated with “politicians working for themselves” instead of their constituents.

On veterans issues, he said he believes a general lack of military experience among members of Congress is part of the problem, though he added that he does not believe non-veteran members are acting with any malice.

In a recent episode of “60 Minutes,” Bolduc was featured as an advocate for post traumatic stress disorder treatment — particularly for stellate ganglion block injections, which target a group of nerve cells in the neck that control “fight or flight” reflexes.

Bolduc says in the episode that he believes his career trajectory in the Army was limited because of how outspoken he was about his own PTSD.

Ahead of Monday’s announcement, Bolduc said he made a trip to the Monadnock Region to hear from voters.

“I was just in Dublin, and, you know, I have to tell you that the concerns there are affordable health care, affordable education, the addiction crisis, the mental-health crisis that we’re having,” Bolduc said. “They’re also concerned with immigration and border security, and keeping our economy strong under a free-market system.”

Heading into 2020, Bolduc said he hopes to run a grassroots campaign and meet as many voters as possible.

“I derive my energy from meeting people and understanding their concerns, and being able to formulate in my mind a process and ideas on how I can be of help to them and represent them as best I can.”


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Year-old Brattleboro drug-care program looks to expand

BRATTLEBORO — Almost a year after police and social services agencies launched a collaborative effort to help people with substance use disorders, organizers are seeking support from the selectboard to expand the program’s reach.

Kicked off last July, Project CARE — Community Approach to Recovery and Engagement — sends Brattleboro police officers and volunteers to talk to people who recently overdosed and connect them with services that address substance misuse. The initiative includes partnerships with local organizations that help people seeking recovery. Among them are Groundworks Collaborative, which provides a wide array of resources to people experiencing homelessness; Turning Point of Windham County, which offers peer-recovery support; Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Vermont, which assists people with mental health needs; and Habit OPCO, a methadone clinic. Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and the Brattleboro Retreat are also part of the collaborative, as is Brattleboro Union High School.

Each organization lends a different area of expertise: Brattleboro Memorial, the Retreat and the methadone clinic, for example, are referral avenues for people seeking recovery. Service organizations, such as Groundworks Collaborative, offer social supports, and volunteers from Health Care and Rehabilitation Services and Turning Point take to the streets with police. But at its heart, Project CARE is about sustained outreach with the goal of helping people struggling with substance misuse take their first steps in recovery.

“We go out there with no judgment,” said Turning Point’s Executive Director Susan Walker. “And that’s why, sometimes, over time, when people do decide to make a change, they will trust someone who has taken the time to get to know them as a human being.”

But it soon became evident that helping people take these initial steps wasn’t enough, according to Brattleboro police Lt. Adam Petlock. Transportation quickly emerged as a barrier for people who didn’t have a car or money for gas.

Petlock said Project CARE received a $2,000 grant last summer from the United Way of Windham County to address some of the transportation challenges, and since March, volunteers from Turning Point have given roughly 20 people rides to rehab facilities across the state. Volunteers can also give people gas cards to cover transportation costs, he added.

Meanwhile, in February, Brattleboro police began experimenting with giving people in custody rides to the Brattleboro Retreat and Habit OPCO. Thus far, Petlock said, six people in custody have received such rides.

In another initiative’s footsteps

Project CARE’s outreach model mirrors a Gloucester, Mass., program that makes the police department a point of contact for those seeking recovery.

The Massachusetts program, which began in 2015, is known as the Police Assisted Addiction and Recovery Initiative and has been implemented by hundreds of police departments nationwide, according to a website of the same name.

Up until last June, Cheshire County had a program, known as the Cheshire County Addiction Assistance Recovery Initiative (ChAARI), which incorporated elements of Gloucester’s. But ChAARI was discontinued after the state briefly lost funding for it and its sister program, a county hotline. The state later transferred the hotline — and funding — to another agency, which serves all of New Hampshire.

Now that participating organizations are comfortable with the Brattleboro collaboration, Petlock said, organizers are looking to solidify its standing and broaden its reach.

Representatives from the partnership will seek support from the town at an August selectboard meeting, according to Petlock, who said the money could cover a stipend to support current volunteers and possibly add more of them. Walker said the collaborative is still collecting data to calculate the cost of the program so an estimate of the sum they plan on asking is not yet available.

Petlock said he does not yet have data on the number of people volunteers have talked to since Brattleboro’s program began, or how many of the estimated dozens of people they speak with on a regular basis have sustained recovery.

“We’re just trying to put together our results,” Walker, of Turning Point, said. “And to tell the town, ‘OK, if you want to see something more robust here, everything we’re doing now is volunteer, and if we’re to do more and to do some more meaningful things on a regular, predictable basis, we need some funding to support this work.’ "

The idea for the initiative came on the heels of Fourth of July weekend two years ago, when first responders revived 12 people who had overdosed. Most of them had used opioids, although at least two of the cases involved other drugs such as MDMA and LSD, police said at the time.

According to data from Brattleboro Fire Chief Michael Bucossi, his department responded to 109 overdose calls stemming from opioids last year, seven of which were fatal. This year, the department has responded to 66 opioid-related overdose calls, two of them resulting in death.

Walker said support from the town could allow for a broader, more stable program that could reach more people, particularly those who don’t seek out services themselves.

The initiative, she explained, connects with people who would otherwise fall through the cracks, closing the resource loop “with a warm handoff between services so that we can accompany people and nurture and support them through a very painful time.”