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Planning board tables Concord Ortho’s redistricting proposal

  • Signs opposing the rezoning of a neighborhood on Pleasant Street in Concord are seen in the yards of the properties that would be affected on Monday, May 22, 2017. The zoning change was requested by Concord Orthopaedics as they look to expand. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • Signs opposing the rezoning of a neighborhood on Pleasant Street in Concord are seen in the yards of the properties that would be affected on Monday, May 22, 2017. The zoning change was requested by Concord Orthopaedics as they look to expand. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz

  • The vast majority of property owners in a residential neighborhood on Pleasant Street has signed on to a "zoning protest petition" that will make it more difficult for the medium-density residential zone to be changed to an institutional zone, as requested by Concord Orthopaedics. NICK REID

  • Signs opposing the rezoning of a neighborhood on Pleasant Street in Concord are seen in the yards of the properties that would be affected on Monday, May 22, 2017. The zoning change was requested by Concord Orthopaedics as they look to expand. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz



Monitor staff
Friday, December 22, 2017

It’s been almost a year since Concord Orthopaedics requested a section of Pleasant Street be rezoned to allow for its expansion.

It could be some time before that question is answered.

The planning board indefinitely tabled the Concord medical institution’s proposal to turn a Pleasant Street residential zone into an industrial one last month, feeling it was unfair to the community to keep postponing the matter at the last minute, City Planner Heather Shank said.

The decision means the request is essentially in limbo until the applicant requests it be brought back before the board. Concord Ortho would have to allow for the hearing to be publicly noticed before the matter could be discussed again, Shank said.

A public hearing about the proposal was held in front of the planning board in July, and was scheduled to continue in August. But Concord Ortho kep asking to postpone the hearing until the next month – and the next month, and the next month – until last month.

“The board felt it was unfair to keep allowing them to postpone it without know what’s going to happen,” Shank said. “It was keeping people on edge.”

Concord Ortho initially sought the change in January because the rezoning would allow for medical uses that are currently prohibited. Concord Ortho has said it and other medical practices need room to expand, and the Pleasant Street area sandwiched between two institutional zones that encompasses Concord Hospital on one side and St. Paul’s School on the other is the logical place.

The practice bought a home within the zone on 33 acres at 297 Pleasant St. where it hoped to build a 20,000-square-foot surgical center. It was the company’s “sixth or seventh” choice following a four-year search for places to expand, Concord Ortho attorney Bob Carey testified in July.

Concord Ortho’s plans going forward are unclear. Carey was unavailable to comment.

Shank said the city is in the dark, too. “We’re aware that they’ve been discussing alternatives, but they haven’t really shared any of that with us,” she said.

What is clear, however, is the perceived impact the proposal would have on the neighborhood’s infrastructure and character.

A letter from the city’s Transportation Policy Advisory Committee from August states the rezoning would cause enough increased traffic to warrant three “significant infrastructure investments by 2035.”

First, Pleasant Street from Dunbarton Road to Langley Parkway would need to be widened, and a two-way left turn lane and a bike lane added in each direction. Second, three right-turn lanes would need to be added to the Pleasant Street/Langley Parkway intersection. Third, a two-way roundabout would have to be built to handle the increased traffic at the Pleasant Street/Warren Street/North-South Fruit Street intersection, according to the letter.

A Concord Ortho expansion would also impact the neighborhood’s historic character, according to a Heritage Commission letter dated September 11.

“It is the opinion of the Heritage Commission that the historic nature of buildings in the corridor is significant...and that each building, whether residential or institutional, contributes to this sense,” the letter reads in part.

For Pleasant Street residents who have been fighting the proposal for months, the tabling is a temporary weight off their shoulders.

Jim Bailey, of 295 Pleasant St., said he felt a definite feeling of relief when he heard Concord Ortho’s proposal had been tabled.

“The whole process has been very stressful, like having a part-time job, one you didn’t ask for or want,” he said. “You had no choice but to be active, to do everything you could to advocate for your home.”

By “job,” Bailey said he meant the time he, along with a few other key residents, put into researching the city’s zoning and planning process and way to oppose the proposal. He couldn’t guess how many hours they spent fighting the rezoning.

Still, a sense of unease for the future remains, he said.

“On the other hand, they (Concord Ortho) still owns the property,” he said, “and still has plans for it. That’s something that’s looming over us. It makes the neighborhood uncomfortable.”

Megan Ryder, of 307 Pleasant St., said the experience has had a few bright sides, such as bringing the neighborhood closer together and becoming more familiar with how city government works.

But she still thinks about last Christmas, when she heard Concord Ortho bought 297 Pleasant St. – right next door to where her family has lived for 15 years.

“I sat in my house sobbing, wondering if this was going to be the last Christmas in our home,” Ryder said.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, candrews@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)