Andrea Garneau New Hampshire 0

Save Federal Street!

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Andrea Garneau New Hampshire 0 Comments
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Petition To Save the Federal Street Neighborhood

Developer John Chorlian is proposing to turn the Sacred Heart Church in Concord, NH, into ten luxury condominiums for largely wealthy retirees. The historic church sits between Pleasant Street and Federal Street. Federal street is a historic neighborhood with a mix of single and multifamily homes that has stood since at least the late 1800s. It has shared the neighborhood with the church since local people constructed the church in the 1930’s.

The site plan as proposed will alienate the church from Federal Street, and largely isolate Federal Street from the greater downtown Concord area. The plan calls for in part building a large stockade type fence right up to the edge of Federal Street. This will reduce safety for pedestrians and homeowners; cut off much needed access to light and and green space; and create an eyesore for homes facing the fence.

The proposed fence will be roughly twelve feet closer to Federal Street than the current chain link fence that separates the church parking lot from the neighborhood. As you can see from the attached photos, it will reduce sight lines on the street for oncoming traffic from the current 50 to 100 yards down to 25 to 30 feet. This will mean that cars coming from Pleasant Street will have mere feet to avoid a collision with a walker or child on a tricycle or scooter.

Compounding this danger is that pedestrians already have few options to avoid oncoming traffic. While general standards call for sidewalks to be from four to five feet to provide safe walking space, Federal Street sidewalks are typically half that with some points as narrow as 18 inches. This means that pedestrians often are forced to walk in the street.

Adding to the safety concerns is that Federal Street, because of its narrowness, is one way. This would seem to make the street safer, since you should only have to watch for traffic from one direction. However, as people living on the street can attest, several times a day cars mistakenly go the wrong way down the street. The fence will then block the view in the opposite direction, heightening the danger for pedestrians and potentially leading to head-on collisions between cars or cyclists going in the correct direction.

As well, Federal Street is already one third narrower than surrounding streets, just 15’ 10” at it widest point. By comparison, the bordering Warren Street is 26 feet wide with four foot sidewalks. This gets even more precarious in the winter, as snow is plowed onto either side of the street. The proposed fence combined with the snow will cause more reduced sight lines, increased stopping distances, and piles of snow virtually in the middle of the road that will make Federal Street unsafe at almost any speed for drivers and pedestrians alike.

In addition, the current green space between the church parking lot and Federal Street allows for safe passage of emergency vehicles and delivery trucks. Right now, the City of Concord Fire Department ladder company practices on Federal Street because it is the narrowest in the city. Those living on the street have witnessed the Fire Department using that extra green space to park additional emergency vehicles, stage equipment, or go around obstacles blocking the street.

For instance, in an emergency call halfway down the street, the fire department may need to park a ladder truck, a pumper truck, and a command vehicle while still allowing an ambulance to pass through. Without that green space, this could become a logistical nightmare of moving and backing vehicles up and down the street while a home burns, or someone suffers a medical emergency. Seconds count in emergency situations, and those living on Federal Street need to know that the emergency teams can reach them when necessary without having to stop to figure how to get around a stockade fence that blocks all reasonable access.

The fence will also destroy access to much needed and treasured green space. The homes on Federal Street predate combustion engines, so people living there had slices of green space surrounding their homes that they shared with neighbors. As times changed, those slivers became driveways with easements for each neighbor. As it stands now, the space between Federal Street and the current church parking lot fence has become a community green space. People walk dogs there, children play there, people plant flowers there, mow the grass, pick up trash and pet waste, and in general take care of it. The church has allowed the neighborhood to share this area with it. This plot of land, though small, provides essential green space, air and light to a neighborhood with little individually owned land and closely spaced homes.

On the opposite side of the street adjoining the parking lot, conversely, Mr. Chorlian wants to remove the fences that have stood for years. This will leave the area behind several single family homes open to the proposed condo parking lot. This will result in the loss of green space that the homeowners have maintained on behalf of the church since at least 2002. It will also mean that snow plows will be able to push snow to the foundations of these houses, potentially resulting in basement flooding. The homeowners have received no tangible assurances that their property will be protected from these intrusions.

We urge you to sign this petition against the site plan as proposed. Your support will demonstrate to city leaders that Concord’s citizens value safety for all residents; green space, air and light for all residents; and inclusion and breaking down barriers, not creating them, between those living in its neighborhoods. We will present this petition, with signatures, to the city planning board at first meeting where it will hear testimony on the site plan. This will either be May 18th at 7PM at City Hall or next month. If you wish, we can also contact you with more details on the meeting if you want to be personally present to testify against the plan or just show moral support for those who will be speaking out against this plan.

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