Planning Board reviews design plans for large developments on Fisherville Road

  • Two potential projects on Fisherville Road could add hundreds of affordable housing units to the city. —Courtesy

  • Two potential projects on Fisherville Road could add hundreds more affordable housing units to the city. —Courtesy

  • Two potential projects on Fisherville Road could add 250 or more affordable housing units to the city. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 11/17/2022 6:03:38 PM

Two building projects visioned for Fisherville Road stand to bring up to 150 multifamily units and more than 100 townhomes to Penacook.

Both projects are still in the conceptual phase and were before the Planning Board Wednesday night for design review. 

The larger of the two, located at 153 Fisherville Road, was one of the first to be modeled after the city’s hope for new zoning laws that would allow for more livable and walkable developments. 

Consultants and engineers for NH Sustainable Communities created the plan to include a pedestrian-friendly mix of commercial and residential buildings. 

Plans call for three front-facing buildings along Fisherville Road with a mix of 8,400 square feet of commercial and residential uses, six residential buildings with 24 units per building and 36 townhomes. If built, it would bring nearly 200 market-value homes to Concord, and 296 parking spaces for commercial and residential use. 

However, residents and board members were concerned with the lack of green space in the design, one of the suggested requirements of the proposed zoning changes, which are referred to as ConcordNEXT. 

“There is no green space, it’s so dense and I don’t even think you could put anything living between the parking spaces,” said Planning Board member Susanne Smith-Meyer. “I’m not sure if this is really what ConcordNEXT is looking for.”

The ConcordNEXT vision includes replacing large parking lots, staggered buildings and unsafe pedestrian conditions with green spaces, pedestrian and biker-friendly streets and multi-use buildings – a design that looks a lot like downtown Concord. During public meetings outlining the changes, City Planner Heather Shank and designers presented sample models to illustrate how local neighborhoods, like Fisherville Road, could be transformed to use land more efficiently while the city’s population grows. 

One of the samples the public saw was a concept for this mostly vacant Fisherville Road lot that could become a tight community mix of apartments featuring interconnected side streets and sidewalks. 

“[Green space] was one of the aspects that was highly valued by the public in feedback sessions,” Shank said. “I have talked to consultants about what a minimum green space requirement would be and they would have to review the plan to get some sort of green space in there.”

In addition to adding more green space, potential walking trails and landscaping to the design, board member Jeffrey Santacruce raised concerns about lighting the streets and crosswalks along the roadway and moving the median so as not to interfere with the entrances and exits of adjacent developments on Fisherville Road and Pinehurst Street.

The second and smaller development from North and South Development calls for 68 townhomes on a nearby lot, which would comply with the current zoning laws of the city. The village would feature amenities similar to Abbott Road, including a pool, a clubhouse and garages for all units. 

However, Shank and members of the planning staff wanted to see the design adjusted to de-emphasize parking and garages and instead focus more or communal space.

Architecturally, townhome units can be designed to celebrate people-oriented spaces versus vehicular functions,” Shank wrote to the board. 

“It is staff’s opinion that the applicant’s proposal can be fairly easily redesigned to de-emphasize vehicles and create an attractive, livable neighborhood by flipping the ‘front’ of the unit to the ‘back,’” Shank wrote.

Board members were pleased with the 57% of green space proposed on the property. 

Public comment focused on the larger of the two projects.

Nancy Nylen, who has lived nextdoor to the Fisherville Road property since 1941, expressed her concerns about rushing developments in the city. 

“I don’t object to the development but I have seen things change and they’re announced to change things for the better but they didn’t, they were half done,” Nylen said. “I would hope that there would be consideration for the people in the area to have safe access to both streets and sidewalks.”

Additionally, she added that she would like to see fencing or screening around the property, which will feature many two to three-story buildings, in an attempt not to obscure the natural viewpoints of surrounding neighborhoods. 

“There is green space that could be gained by limiting the number of parking spaces, which are overkill at the moment,” said resident Tim Robson. “I think it would benefit the development if there were fewer spaces so that people had to consider other forms of transportation to get around.”

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