Planning board gives tepid approval to congregate housing requests

St. Casimir School. File Photo

MANCHESTER, NH – On Wednesday, the Manchester Planning Board approved two requests each from a congregate housing organizations on High Street and Union Street.

The first congregate housing development, located at 51 High St. across from Pulaski Park, sought a reduction in on-site parking from nine spaces to four as well as an approval to change the use of the building from its previous use as office space.

Members of the board expressed concern with the two requests, especially in terms of a lack of licensed employees at the facility, which would transfer congregate housing residents from a comparable facility on Russell Street.

Proposed conditions by Alderman Pat Long (Ward 3) to require a curfew and noise restriction for residents drew worries from Planning Board Member June Trisciani, who feared such a request was beyond the scope of the Planning Board’s authority despite her concerns over the project.

However, staff members indicated that the project’s applicants, Paul and Suzanne Dilulio, agreed to enforce an 11 p.m. curfew on all residents as well as no outdoor smoking beyond an enclosed area on the east side of the building, and that the Planning Board could make construction of the enclosed area a condition of approval.

Planning Board Member Robb Curry expressed concern over whether the house would truly be used for its intended purposes given the residents required participation in a Concord-based facility, but Long said he was informed that the role of the Concord facility would eventually be phased out.

The parking space reduction passed 5-1-1 and the change of use request passed 6-1-0. Long, Trisiciani, Curry, Dan LeClerc and Christopher Wellington voting yes on both measures, Andrew Boyle voting no on both measures, and Bryce Kaw-uh abstaining on the first measure and voting yes on the second.

For the second pair of requests, sought by 1269 Café Ministries to transform the former St. Casmir School into congregate housing, the Planning Board had more confidence in the applicant’s track record even if there were still concerns overall.

Like the High Street proposal, 1269 Café Ministries sought a reduction of required on-site parking (from 52 spaces to 20) and a change of use request. However, at 21,344 sq. ft, the Union Street proposal was approximately 10-times larger than the High Street proposal.

Again, the members of the board agonized over the need for congregate housing in the city and the fear that the applicants would be unable to meet their responsibilities to the community at large.

The board begrudgingly voted to approval both requests, both of which passed by a margin of 4-0-2 with Long and Kaw-uh abstaining.

“All eyes are going to be on not just them but us, so I hope they live up to everything they say they are going to do,” said LeClerc.