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Langley Parkway opponents launch website, petition

Critics of the long-planned but likely still far-off Langley Parkway extension have geared up to oppose the project, launching a website and asking the Concord City Council to remove it from the city budget’s capital improvement program.

“You’re going to start to see the city council discuss this item,” City Manager Tom Aspell said at the annual State of the City address last month while he showed a plan for a 1.6-mile-long extension of the parkway.

The 2-lane northern Langley bypass would cost the city between $17 and $18 million, Aspell said. If built, the new road would begin behind Concord Hospital and pour out at the intersection of Bouton Street and North State Street near the Concord Fire Headquarters.

“A lot of things are driving this,” Aspell said in April. Those factors include a fire department study from January on ambulance response times and plans by Brady Sullivan to turn the former Lincoln Financial property into housing. Concord Hospital continues to grow, and owners of properties near Bouton Street and North State Street want certainty before developing land that could be affected by a new road.

Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilor Stacey Brown said that she has been inundated with emails from constituents alarmed that this mention meant the project would finally proceed. “Ever since the State of the City, this has been the dominant issue,” Brown said.

Brown submitted an informational letter with residents’ qualms in the City Council’s May 9 meeting agenda, and more than 300 residents signed a petition to the council registering their disapproval. A group called the Concord Greenspace Coalition NH also published a website outlining reasons why members want the project scrapped. 

The letter Brown sent to the city council argued that extending Langley would reduce the city’s green space and impede access to recreation areas. She also disputed that the Langley Parkway extension would improve ambulance response times and estimated the total cost for taxpayers at closer to $22 million. 

Brown sees the wooded area that the parkway would cut through as a valuable natural resource for Concord and something that can attract people to the city. “It’s an asset, and it’s something that folks from multiple wards use,” she said in an interview. 

Her goal, and the goal of other residents who oppose the project, is to get Langley removed from the budget’s capital improvement program in the upcoming budget. 

The Langley Parkway project is listed as an item in the current fiscal year’s Capital Improvement Program for funding in fiscal years 2024 and 2026. The description for CIP#40 comes with a price tag of $12.5 million, including a private donation of $2.8 million. 

State law empowers municipalities like Concord to create a capital improvement program for capital investments in facilities, infrastructure and equipment to implement in future years, allowing the council to plan budgets for the future and avoid sudden tax rate hikes. 

Concord lays out 10 years of projects in each year’s annual capital improvement program, a practice in place since fiscal year 2011. More than 100 projects are included in the current capital improvement program. Funding is only appropriated for projects in the upcoming fiscal year. 

Projects are added to the capital improvement program during the annual budget adoption process, which begins next week on May 12, when the City Council will receive a copy of the proposed budget. A session on the capital improvement program is scheduled for June 2, and public hearings on the budget are set for June 9. 

Although the final section of the three-phase Langley extension returned to the public eye this April, the road has been part of the city’s long-term road planning for decades. Concord’s 2030 Master Plan refers to the construction of a northern leg of Langley Parkway as “the most important and needed upgrade of the City’s roadway system.”

A 2015 transportation feasibility study that put the cost between about $13 and $15 million highlighted that the Langley extension could create better emergency access to the hospital’s Level 2 trauma center and create a secondary access road in case Pleasant Street were blocked. It also said that the new road could ease congestion from cars cutting through residential side streets to avoid busier routes. 

Between 32 and 36 properties could be affected by the project, depending on which plan is followed, according to the study. “The conceptual designs indicate that no full property acquisitions will be necessary to accommodate the project, only small strip areas for (Right of Way),” the report from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. said. 

Deputy City Manager for Development Carlos Baía said that although the project has been on the master plan for a long time, city staff have not been directed by the council to look at its implementation. 

While some residents who signed the petition expressed concerns that there had not been sufficient opportunities for public input on the project, other city councilors said they were frustrated by Langley opponents’ “misconceptions”  – including the idea that funding for the road would be approved without a transparent process. 

“If, by some stretch of the imagination, this project were to move forward, there would be plenty of public meetings and public hearings,” At-Large Councilor Byron Champlin said. Champlin called the money set aside for Langley on the capital improvement program “just a placeholder.” 

“I don’t think we have the resources for it to go forward right now. I think we have other pressing needs,” he said, including the purchase of an additional ambulance and adding more personnel to the police department. 

Ward 4 Councilor Karen McNamara is another newcomer to the city council. Like Brown and Ward 6 Councilor Paula McLaughlin, this spring will be McNamara’s first budget cycle. She has heard from Ward 4 residents concerned that going forward with the construction of the Langley extension would mean cutting down trees or losing walking trail access, but she emphasized that the council would need to approve any appropriations for the project. 

“If it does come to a place where City Council is discussing this, I’m sure there would be more data that I’d want to see for why to consider this plan,” McNamara said. “This isn’t even something that City Council’s working on right now.”