Spring is Coming

First up, more information on the proposal by CATCH Neighborhood Housing to develop affordable housing at 95-97 Village Street.  What is proposed is six new residential buildings accommodating 42 units.  There are two landowners involved.  The “Water Tower” lot is owned by the City and was originally set aside to be used for cemetery expansion.  It has no frontage, so it can only be developed if combined with another piece of property.  A few years ago, the Penacook Community Center made a request to purchase it, which was approved, with a determination that there currently exists another 125 years or so of available cemetery land without the Water Tower parcel.  When the PCC’s expansion plans fell through, they put their land for sale, CATCH made them an offer, and also offered the City to purchase its parcel.  CATCH plans to move forward with plans for either the PCC parcel alone or the PCC and City parcels.  Therefore, if CATCH’s proposal is not accepted by the City, the Water Tower lot will stay dormant, with no potential for improvements or revenue.

The first step for CATCH has been to request zoning changes to accommodate the proposed project.  At the Zoning Board’s April 3 meeting, it was decided 5-0 in favor of granting the variance allowing development on a lot with only 148.2’ of frontage when the minimum frontage requirement is 150’.  Then at the April 17 Planning Board meeting, the Board recommended the rezoning of property from Residential to General Commercial which allows for the multifamily dwellings that are proposed by CATCH.  Now the matter will be taken up by City Council with a public hearing for the May 13 meeting (7:00 pm in Council Chambers on Green St.) to decide whether to change the zoning as recommended, which would allow for a purchase and sale with CATCH of the Water Tower lot.  If you are unable to attend on May 13, you can send your comments to the City Clerk Janice Bonenfant: jbonenfant@concordnh.gov. Relevant documents, including a March 22 report that provides additional information can be found here: Council Agenda 5-13-19 Item 48H.  Also helpful is an additional report from March 29: Report and Agreement. The reports detail the proposed project and also discuss affordable housing in Concord. 

Also note that if Council approves the zoning change, the CATCH site plan will need to be approved at Planning Board. This will provide residents with an additional opportunity to provide input.  The earliest the public hearing could be held is at the June 19 Planning Board meeting, and I’ll send you an update with that information.  

Concord and the nation have an affordable housing crisis.  Concord has an overall housing crisis, with vacancy rates hovering at around 1-2%.  My research indicates that there are currently about 40 affordable housing apartments in Penacook (excluding those restricted to seniors), which accounts for 4% of the City total.  The majority of the City’s affordable housing is located in the Heights and Downtown.  Three residential housing projects have been discussed lately in Penacook: the CATCH proposal, the Caleb Project at the former Tannery site, and apartments at the former RIVCO site.  While there is no new information to report on the latter at this time, the expectation is that ground will break at the Tannery site in September.  Housing construction will help ease the crisis; it will also provide economic benefits of additional local consumer spending.  Penacook needs more consumer foot traffic and more residents to spur on commercial development growth, which in turn will help lower our taxes.  If you have any questions or want more information please write back.

Major site plan approval and granting of a conditional use permit for the 212 Fisherville Rd development of a Domino’s pizza and Aroma Joe’s coffee shop occurred at the April 17 Planning Board meeting.

During May and June, City Council will be holding its budget meetings.  All meetings are open to the public, and your comments are welcome.  Here is the proposed subject matter schedule:
Fiscal Year 2020 Finance Committee budget schedule — Concord City Council Chambers
May 16 (Thursday) Budget Delivery to City Council 
May 20 (Monday) 5:30 PM City Manager’s Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Presentation
May 23 (Thursday) 5:30 PM General Government (Administration) (Police, Fire, General Services)
May 30 (Thursday) 5:30 PM Community Development (Library, Parks and Recreation, Human Services, Capital Improvement Program)
June 3 (Monday) 5:30 PM Special Revenue Funds (Parking, Airport, Conservation Property, Golf Course, Arena, Solid Waste, Water, Wastewater)
June 6 (Thursday) 5:30 PM Public Hearing Action (Budget Adoption)

Our investment in firefighter training and programs pays off!

As I was writing this to you today, I received word of an aggressive fire that occurred at 63 Merrimack Street.  Thanks to the efforts of our Concord Firefighters, it was quickly contained, an occupant was safely removed, and a pet cat who had suffered severe smoke inhalation was rescued.  Firefighters used a specially designed oxygen mask for pet animals to resuscitate the cat.  The City Council invests in training programs that aid our firefighters in handling these situations.  The return on that investment is tremendous, as seen here today.  We’re fortunate to live in a community with top-notch fire and police professionals.

Brent Todd

CATCH Neighborhood Housing

You may be aware that the proposal by the Penacook Community Center to develop land at 95-97 Village Street for their new Community Center has been abandoned.  The land was placed for sale and the interested buyer is CATCH Neighborhood Housing, who would like to merge the lots, change the zoning to residential, and construct approximately 40, one to three-bedroom affordable housing units in multiple buildings on the property.  Their first step will occur at a public hearing Wednesday, April 3 at the 7 pm Zoning Board meeting in Council Chambers on 37 Green St.  The Zoning Board will review the request for a variance to allow multi-family development with a total frontage of 148 feet where 150 feet is required. Their next phase will be at the City Council meeting on April 8, where Council will be asked to adopt the zone change. Council may refer the matter to the Planning Board first, or it may set a public hearing. Stay tuned for updates.

Free afternoon of music at Riverside Park

Local property owner and architect John Jordan has been are targeting late June Saturday from 2 - 6 pm for a free afternoon of music at Riverside Park.  The event will be in partnership with the Concord Parks & Recreation department.  This will be a new event for Penacook, though you may recall the last concert at Riverside in 2015 by the Wildcat Regiment Band as part of the city’s 250th anniversary celebrations.  Brent will let everyone know more info and volunteering opportunities soon, as we might be able to turn this into an annual event.

Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce guidebook

The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce is updating its Guidebook to Greater Concord for the 2019-2020 publication in the spring.  Thanks to the Chamber and the Penacook Village Association, the new book will feature an entry about Penacook.  The Guidebook is widely requested as a relocation/vacation resource by area businesses for prospective employers and visitors. 

Redevelopment of 212 Fisherville Rd. property

Coming before the Planning Board on Wednesday, March 20, is the development of a drive-up pizza restaurant and a coffee kiosk at 212 Fisherville Road. The Zoning Board in February decided not to grant a variance to regulations that would have allowed a 24 foot wide driveway for two-way traffic to cut through the buffer zone where a 15 foot vegetative buffer is required.  The developer is now applying for a Conditional Use Permit for the construction of a driveway within 200 feet of an adjacent driveway.  Materials can be found here: Fisherville Rd – Planning Bd.  You can send in your written opinions to Heather Shank at any time, but public testimony will not be at the March 20th meeting.  This meeting will only take up the Planning Board's determination of the completeness of the application, not to approve or deny it.  The public hearing on this will occur at the April 17 Planning Board meeting if the application is voted complete on Wednesday.

Former Rivco property

I just toured the Newspapers of New England (NNE) printing operations at the former RIVCO site.  They will shortly be printing the Concord Monitor there, and are already printing other papers.  This is going to be a tremendous, regional operation supplying printed materials to New Hampshire and bordering states, employing 50-80 people in two shifts, and they're currently hiring.  I foresee a lot of positive benefits for Penacook.

Brent Todd

Concord Energy and Environment Committee

Please mark your calendars for Concord's Energy and Environment Committee April 27 community input meeting from 2 to 4 pm at the Penacook Community Center gymnasium on Community Drive.  Join members of the Committee for a community discussion of Concord's 100% Renewable Energy Strategic Plan.  The session will feature a brief presentation of the plan followed by input from the public. The current draft of the plan will be available soon on the City's website.

Concord Monitor

Some of you may have heard that the Concord Monitor building has been listed for sale. I toured the building with Mayor Bouley and Councilor Byron Champlin and discussed options for redevelopment.  I'll keep you informed about the potential for reuse, and for development of adjoining property they own.

Brent Todd

Former Beede Electric property

The Concord Monitor contacted Councilman Brent Todd regarding the status of the former Beede Electric property. His understanding is the person with a controlling interest in the property is trying to lease it out.  There are questions about long-term viability due to some condition issues of the building and mitigation of environmental hazards.  Stay tuned for more and perhaps a story in the Monitor.

PVA Public Meetings

The Penacook Village Association will be planning a schedule of upcoming public meetings along the lines of the last few on the Rivco property, and Merrimack Valley School District traffic issues.  Upcoming topics may include Affordable Housing, and TIF districts.  Send me your ideas on topics of interest and I'll pass them on to the PVA.