June 1, 2006

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Concord Publisher's Note: Moving in the right direction
By Dan Szczesny

There’s a fine line between development and preservation.

Officials, in particular Concord’s new city manager Tom Aspell, are facing some difficult choices: build out, increase the tax base and potentially lower taxes and make it easier on residents’ pocketbooks, or preserve land, green space and historic buildings to create a better city of tomorrow.

While sprawl and environmentalism appear to be incompatible, good city planning needs to be open to and be prepared to work with and control both. In other words, it doesn’t have to be an either/or option.

In general, Concord officials appear right- headed about walking this delicate path. A number of developments and projects have been in the spotlight the last couple weeks that illustrate how Concord is moving in the right direction.

• Concord business owners won four Excellence in Downtown Revitalization awards sponsored by the New Hampshire Main Street Center, an organization that encourages historic preservation.

• A new Lowe’s home improvement center will be built on the site of the abandoned eyesore that was the old Bradlees in the Market Basket shopping center on Fort Eddy Road. Here’s an example of appropriate build-out. This location is already the center of sprawl in Concord, and the presence of another retail box store will do no damage to the area of the local economy. Plus, the approvals were contingent on road improvements to Fort Eddy and Loudon roads that will help with traffic flow.

• Bishop Brady High School on Columbus Ave. broke ground on a $4 million expansion this week that will add classrooms and a multi media center. Sure, it’s a private school, but it will still need Planning Board approval – which it should get – to move forward. Plus, it’s a good example of how a private community interested in its students is able to bring about such a large project on its own. The school has already raised more than half the funding needed.

• Right next door, in Bow, the site of what was once the Hammond family homestead will be preserved as conservation land. The 154 acres of potentially prime real estate was bought at town meeting recently. It’s a good example of a town choosing green space over cookie-cutter condos, and a long-term benefit decision Concord residents should consider every time they visit.

All these steps in the right direction make Tom Aspell’s call to cut more than $20,000 from the Concord City Library so frustrating. Those cuts would affect the library’s book and periodical budget. The cuts would also force the library to close its doors on Wednesday evenings.

The last thing the city should be doing now is shutting the doors of its learning and cultural institutions. In fact, if anything, Aspell should be looking for ways to improve and increase the size of the library. Library supporters want the city to fund an $80,000 study on overhauling the library, which is already maxed out as far as shelf space and technology. The worst thing Aspell can do at this critical juncture in Concord’s history is treat a potential economic engine like a well stocked, well used library as though it’s a drag on the city’s resources.

City officials should maintain their positive track record by helping empower the library, instead of locking its doors.


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