August 29. 2018 11:01PM

Developers defend plan to locate 120-unit apartment complex next to Bedford High School

Union Leader Correspondent

Developer Dick Anagnost gives a tour last April at a retail center being built on South Willow Street in Manchester. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

BEDFORD — The developers for a proposed mixed-use project that could bring 120 apartments into town are defending their preliminary plans.

To date, more than 200 residents have signed a petition requesting that “no more apartments be approved, particularly the current 120-unit building being planned for Bow Lane off Chestnut Drive.”

This week, Dick Anagnost, chairman of the Workforce Opportunity Council and president of Anagnost Investments Inc., along with Bill Greiner, founder of Primary Bank, presented conceptual plans to the Planning Board highlighting their project, which includes the redevelopment of the former Shorty’s restaurant and four, three-story apartment buildings next to the high school.

“In 37 years of doing this, it is the first time that I have not had (an official) proposal before anybody and had so much opposition to it,” said Anagnost, who acknowledges that one of the concerns is that the project would bring more children into the school district.

A fabulous school district has been created in Bedford, said Anagnost, questioning when children became the enemy.

“The most egregious is that apartments are not the kind of housing that Bedford should have,” he said of the concerns being raised. “We need the diversity of housing. We need diversity in general.”

Several residents spoke both in favor of the project and in opposition to the plans this week; although conceptual plans have been introduced, a formal site plan has not yet been submitted.

“I have to say, I was shocked by some unconscionable comments that we have seen on social media about this proposed project for the past few weeks,” said Greiner, citing both hatred and fear-mongering in an attempt to scare people.

Greiner stressed that apartments are not a new concept for Bedford, noting an apartment complex on South River Road and another one behind the Copper Door restaurant that includes workforce housing — similar to the one being proposed near the high school.

“Workforce housing is not new in Bedford either. In fact, it has been part of the zoning district since 2009,” said Greiner, adding no subsidies are offered with workforce housing.

His proposal includes 90 market rate units and 30 workforce housing units. According to Greiner, Bedford has built less than 150 workforce units since 2009, even though the deficit of workforce housing at the time was listed at 1,200 units.

John Vanuden of Bedford noted that apartments are already set to be constructed as part of the Market and Main development along South River Road.

“Take a good look at Route 101 and what we see today — it is a major thoroughfare,” said Vanuden. “I would strongly vote against it. It doesn’t belong there.”

Laura Condon, who works on Chestnut Drive, said there are people with genuine concerns about this project, specifically because of the proposed site behind the old Shorty’s that abuts the high school complex.

“I am just concerned that this project is too big for this particular location,” said Condon.

Several people voiced support for the project, including some residents who have lived in the apartments behind Copper Door, as well as young adults who want to live in Bedford but cannot afford a home here.

In order for Bedford to keep some of its younger residents, workforce housing could be critical, said Frank Anthony, who graduated a few years ago from Bedford High School and is hoping to find a place of his own here.

Harold Newberry, planning board member, acknowledged that he has concerns about the traffic in the area, saying a total of 90 apartments might be more feasible than the proposed 120.