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Residents consider hiring consultant to campaign against Langley Parkway

A group of Concord residents opposed to the extension of Langley Parkway is considering hiring a private consultant to lead an effort to kill the project.

Ned Sackman, an attorney who lives on Ridgewood Lane, sent an email to a dozen of his neighbors last week, suggesting that they hire consultant Jim Merrill to launch a campaign against the extension of Langley Parkway from Pleasant Street to the intersection of North State and Penacook streets.

“For about $10,000, Jim can put together a ‘behind the scenes’ campaign designed to influence the city council,” Sackman wrote in the email, obtained by the Monitor.

Merrill works for Bernstein Shur Group, a consulting subsidiary of the Manchester-based Bernstein Shur law firm, for which Sackman is an attorney. Merrill’s previous work includes positions as senior strategist for Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign in New Hampshire and adviser to Ovide Lamontagne during his run for governor last year.

The third phase of the Langley Parkway would span 2 miles and is scheduled for 2017 and 2018 in the city’s capital improvement plan. Many residents voiced opposition to the project this month at two meetings where city engineers spoke about the project and presented conceptual plans.

The new road would be built over what is now a dirt path off Auburn Street that residents use for walking, biking and to access other city parks and trails. Neighbors have said they were concerned about the loss of that recreational area, harm to wildlife and the noise and traffic that a new road could bring to the open space near their homes.

Langley Parkway has been in Concord’s long-term plans for decades, but it will not necessarily move forward on schedule. Mayor Jim Bouley spoke up at one meeting this month and assured residents the project is not one of his priorities; he said it would likely be delayed or removed entirely from city plans.

The project is aimed at reducing travel time to Concord Hospital for emergency vehicles, according to city engineers, and eliminating cut-through traffic in nearby neighborhoods. Traffic signals were installed at Pleasant Street as a small first phase of the project in 1995, and a second phase between Clinton and Pleasant streets opened in 2008 after years of delay and a legal battle over moving a home owned by the Tuttle family. Concord Hospital and St. Paul’s School contributed to the second phase of the parkway through a partnership with the city.

In 2011, the city and Concord Hospital each paid half the cost of a $150,000 planning study for the third phase, from Concord Hospital’s campus to North State Street. That study led to this month’s meetings about the project. Though engineers presented maps and intersection options, they said design work has not begun and hinges on future city council approval.

Reached yesterday, Sackman declined to comment specifically on his email to neighbors or the possibility of hiring Merrill to campaign against the project.

“It’s no secret that our community has deep concerns over the proposed Langley Parkway extension, and the significant negative impact it would have on our neighborhoods, our families and our quality of life,” he said in the email. “We are exploring all of our options to ensure that our voices are heard throughout this process, and to engage the growing number of Concord citizens who have expressed reservations about this project.”

Sackman noted that he was speaking as a resident of Concord, not as an attorney for Bernstein Shur.

Merrill did not return phone messages left yesterday. But his idea of a campaign against the Langley Parkway would include writing letters to the editor, organizing attendance at meetings and “reaching out to influential members of the Concord community,” Sackman wrote in his email to neighbors who live near Auburn Street and Ridge Road.

“I’ve talked to Jim about the Langley Parkway issue and he has some ideas about how to focus the present resistance to the project into a more effective campaign that would affect the upcoming city council vote on the matter and, perhaps eventually, kill the project,” Sackman wrote.

Concord engineers will hold a third public meeting about Langley Parkway on Nov. 21. City Engineer Ed Roberge said he will then deliver a report to the mayor and city council. The council reviews its capital improvement plan every year and approves a 10-year plan as part of its annual budget. Separate council votes are later required before issuing bonds for individual projects.

Sackman’s family and at least one other resident are willing to pay to hire Merrill, he wrote in his email to neighbors.

“Ideally, we’d put together a good-sized group and share the costs,” Sackman wrote.

He said Merrill could hold an initial meeting at no cost to residents, and encouraged them to forward the email to other neighbors.

“I view getting Jim involved as the best way to stop this project, and I believe we have a real chance of doing so,” he wrote. “Please consider at least attending a meeting and hearing what he has to say.”

Several neighbors who received Sackman’s initial email did not return messages left yesterday.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

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