Langley Parkway opponents pack budget meeting to demand project be scrapped from long-term plans

  • Opponents of the Langley Parkway extension and some golf course supporters, packed City Council Chambers on June 2 for a finance committee meeting on the fiscal year 2023 budget. Cassidy Jensen / Monitor staff

  • Opponents of the Langley Parkway extension, some golf course supporters, packed City Council Chambers on June 2, 2022 for a finance committee meeting on the fiscal year 2023 budget. Cassidy Jensen—Monitor staff

  • Figure 2.3-1 of the environmental study area of Langley Parkway phase three from a 2015 report by Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc for the City of Concord. Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc

  • Vehicles pass through the intersection of Pleasant Street and Langley Parkway outside Concord Hospital in 2016. A proposal to extend the road has been part of the city’s plans for years, but recently the mayor has said it’s a priority as housing replaces the former Lincoln Financial site. Monitor file

  • ----PLEASANT ST. CLINTON ST. SOUTH ST. LITTLE POND R D. PENACOOK ST. AUBURN ST. 202 13 3A 3 0 .5 MILE CHARLOTTE THIBAULT / Monitor staff 93 393 NEXT? Contruction of 2- mile extension connecting Pleasant Street to North State Street. COMPLETED: .8 mile section connecting Clinton Street to Pleasant Street and Concord Hospital campus. CONCORD HOSPITAL CAMPUS Langley Parkway LANGLEY PARKWAY Source: City of Concord ---- CHARLOTTE THIBAULT / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 6/3/2022 3:44:26 PM

A group of city residents calling themselves the Concord Greenspace Coalition, packed City Council Chambers on Thursday night to ask councilors to remove the third phase of the Langley Parkway extension from the city’s future spending plans.    

Although no funding is allocated in next year’s proposed budget for the proposed 2.25-mile road extending from Pleasant Street to Rumford and Penacook Streets, the long-planned completion of the Langley Parkway has drawn attention and organized resistance from neighbors who want the project go no further. 

The current capital improvement plan lists $5.72 million in capital spending in fiscal year 2024, half to come from private contributions, and an additional $6.79 million in fiscal year 2026. In April, City Manager Tom Aspell estimated that the total cost of the project would be between $17 and $18 million, although opponents of the project say it will cost closer to $22 million.

Armed with a petition bearing 600 signatures, residents questioned the need for a new road and described their love of the informal trails behind Concord Hospital.

“I’ve talked to more people about this than any issue that is actually in the fiscal year 2023 budget,” At-Large Councilor Byron Champlin said.

On Thursday, members of the public spent more than two hours telling the council that the extension of Langley should be killed for good in a meeting that lasted until 11 p.m. Councilors pushed back, arguing that keeping the project in the budget would allow the city to respond quickly to economic development and housing needs.

Concord Hospital internal medicine doctor Chris Mertz showed the council graphs to illustrate that patients’ likelihood of surviving an emergency medical event are not significantly altered by longer ambulance travel times once EMTs have arrived on the scene.

Andy Jenness, a former Apple quality assurance manager, said that traffic estimates in a 2015 feasibility study on the road were flawed and that the centers of congestion in the city have shifted from Concord Hospital to the state office park and Concord High School.

Parents talked about the joy of walking in the woods with their families, while doctors lauded the private land as a green space for harried hospital workers to take lunchtime breaks.

The future of the area was first raised this year at the council’s biennial priority setting in February. Mayor Jim Bouley said in that session that he had added Langley Parkway to the council’s priority list for a broader discussion, in light of Brady Sullivan’s plans to add housing units to the former Lincoln Financial site.

“If there’s ever to be a future road there ... now is our time to decide where we want to put it,” Bouley said in February. “I think one of the things we’re gonna have to talk about is ‘do we want to put money into design, how do we want to approach this, do we not care, just let it go?’ But something’s going to happen. It can either happen to us or can happen with us.”

City Manager Tom Aspell mentioned the project in his annual State of the City address in April, citing the potential Brady Sullivan development and a recent fire station location study as driving conversation about the road, which was first conceptualized in the 1950s.

Meredith Cooley, a nurse and website designer who launched the Concord Greenspace Coalition website, said she and her young family moved to Concord in 2011 in part because of its green spaces and “livability.”

“Constructing Langley Parkway would destroy much of what people enjoy and love about Concord,” Cooley said.

Ward 3 Councilor Jennifer Kretovic told Cooley that she had to take an hour and a half off of work in order to attend a 20-minute doctor’s appointment at Concord Hospital. The project is intended to reduce traffic congestion to improve access from the northwest part of the city to the medical campus, according to the description in the capital improvement plan.

“I think there’s divided opinion on the council right now and I think people are still making decisions,” Ward 10 Councilor Zandra Rice Hawkins said in response to a later question about whether the council was prepared to remove the project from the capital improvement plan.

Some councilors repeatedly asked opponents why they felt addressing the project now was a priority.

“I feel a little bit like the tale of Chicken Little,” Bouley said. “There was nobody talking about this area here today. We were talking specifically about trying to revitalize blighted, underutilized, underdeveloped properties as well as increasing density because we desperately need housing. I think that’s what we were talking about,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the acorn fell and Chicken Little took off,” he said.

Correction: This story has been updated to include that Andy Jenness previously worked for Apple and is not a current representative. 
Cassidy Jensen bio photo

Cassidy Jensen has been a reporter at the Monitor, covering the city of Concord and criminal justice, since July 2021. Previously, she was a fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University, where she earned a master's degree. Her work has been published in Documented, THE CITY, Washington City Paper and Street Sense Media. When she's not at City Council meetings, you can find her hiking in the White Mountains.

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