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1.25.16 Natural Gas Company Seeks Access to Private Land for Surveys - Pressures Owners

The Salem News posted an article written by Christian M. Wade (cwade@cnhi.com), Statehouse Reporter, about how Tennessee Gas Pipeline Company LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan, is asking the Commonwealth of MA's Department of Public Utilities (DPU) to compel 450 homeowners along the natural gas pipeline route - including dozens in the Merrimack Valley and North Shore - to allow access for land surveys and environmental and archaeological studies.

Kinder Morgan and its subsidiary want to pump gas from the Marcellus shale region of Pennsylvania, across Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. The pipeline would connect with other proposed lines running through Haverhill, Methuen and Andover. Smaller, lateral lines through Peabody, Danvers and Lynnfield would pump gas to the North Shore.

Tennesee Gas officials say the surveys are required as part of a review by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and homeowners on the list are refusing to allow its workers onto their land.  Documents filed with the state agency list 408 properties it must access for civil and archaeological surveys, 23 for drilling to test soil consistency, and another 18 where it needs to study the project’s impact on endangered species and wetlands where they live, such as vernal pools.

Tennessee Gas is looking to have the Commonwealth force owners to allow for access. In a statement, Massachusetts utilities officials pointed out that their agency does has the authority to grant pipeline companies access to private land, and it has never denied a request. They will accept written and oral comment from affected property owners until May 6 and have scheduled six public hearings from late-March to mid-April. 

The company’s request for help from the state has sparked outrage from pipeline opponents, who view it as a precursor to eminent domain proceedings. Opposition argue against the proposed pipeline and access rights, citing:  (1) protection of private property rights; (2) negative environmental impacts; (3) reduced property valuation; (4) lack of need for more natural gas; and (5) desire to pursue solar, wind and other renewables to meet long-term energy needs that would reduce carbon emissions that contribute to climate change.

Local pipeline opponents are looking to Attorney General Maura Healey to intervene by blocking access to their property.

On the other side, industry officials say New England’s electricity market is strained, in part, by a lack of transmission lines to bring natural gas to power plants that are shifting from coal. Lack of capacity has led to higher energy bills.

Though the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has final say over the pipeline, it is required to weigh input from state and local officials, as well as property owners. That includes an environmental review using data from surveys and studies.

Locally, public hearings will be held on April 6 at Lynnfield Middle School and April 14 at Andover High School. Both hearings will start at 7 p.m.

Several communities - including Methuen, Peabody and Lynnfield - have passed resolutions opposing the pipeline and are calling on state and federal officials to ban gas pipelines in favor of solar, wind and other renewable energy projects. Other communities - such as Concord, Deerfield and North Reading - have passed local ordinances banning surveying and other work for the project.

Tennessee Gas has asked for a ruling from the state by March 1, when it plans to begin survey work. 

Read the entire Salem News article.

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1.13.16 Zoning Plans for River Street & Bass River in Beverly

River Street, Beverly

The Salem News reports that Beverly officials are proposing zoning changes in downtown Beverly and along the Bass River and River Street that are designed to promote artist live/work spaces, and also give allowances for small craft breweries or distilleries, and “maker space” for smaller studio, lab, instructional space or retail uses.

Beverly mayor, Michael Cahill, is trying to further his goal of “transit-oriented development” – adding more people living near the MBTA station with the hope of attracting artists to the city’s arts and cultural district downtown.

Under the proposed zoning changes, residents could have a combined studio and residential space, allowing the artist to creating their art and sell it from the same location. Small businesses and crafts people could also live and work there; all they would need a special permit for development. Allowances for breweries and distilleries would make it so small brewers could set up shop outside areas zoned industrial and into the downtown.

Mayor Cahill said the city intends to have a public meeting within the next few weeks to look at what types of uses could be allowed what changes/additions would need to be made to current zoning rules. If more residential development is planned for along River Street, it will be added to existing transit-oriented plans — Windover Development is already looking into new residential projects for 10-12 Congress St. and 131 Rantoul St., both within walking distance of the train station.

Mayor Cahill said he hopes to present the new zoning proposal to City Council by the end of the winter or early spring this year.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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1.4.16 Proposed 96-Unit Chapter 40B Housing in Peabody off Route 114

According to the Salem News, a Peabody Developer is proposing to build a 96-unit housing project on undeveloped land off Route 114 in Peabody, currently featuring a Verizon store and Sleepy’s, in between between Mt. Pleasant Road, Richartson Road and Hog Hill Road, a neighborhood near Brooksby Farm on the other side.

The would-be developer is James Decoulos and his three brothers (sons of Peabody attorney and developer Nicholas Decoulos), whose family previously built the Verizon store and Sleepy’s complex, located at 262 Andover Street.

This project is planned under the state’s Chapter 40B law, which would allow the developers to bypass local zoning regulations since the city has less than 10% of its housing stock classified as “affordable” under Chapter 40B guidelines. Those guidelines use a ratio of housing costs to income that ensures housing is affordable for people who earn up to 80% of the area median household income. Because Peabody is under the 10% threshold, developers can bypass local zoning boards and seek a comprehensive building permit directly from the state Housing Appeals Committee.

Plans, permitting and discussions seem to be in early stages at this point.  

Read the entire Salem News article.

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12.11.15 Pigeon Cove Repairs in Gloucester

Pigeon Cove and harbor entrance - Gloucester, MA

The Gloucester Times reported that repairs to improve the upper Pigeon Cove stone breakwater and the harbor entrance breakwater has begun.  It’s a $4.5 million project by Framingham contractor Classic Site Solutions Inc. designed to further protect the moorings and the cove from ocean wave breakdown.

Storms in 2010 and 2013 breached the breakwaters, battering the stone walls. 

Read the entire Gloucester Times article.

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12.9.15 Proposed Construction on Gloucester’s Scenic Back Shore

 Proposed Construction on Gloucester’s Scenic Back Shore

The Gloucester Times reported that controversy is growing in Gloucester over proposed construction of a single family home (or anything else) on the oceanfront property along Atlantic Road in Gloucester’s scenic “Back Shore.”

Gloucester Councilor at-Large Joe Ciolino has filed a proposal to create an overlay district for the ocean side of the 1.5-mile stretch of Atlantic Road that is presently open, targeted for a 1,500-square-foot single-family home proposed at 178 Atlantic Road.

Architect James Harwood is proposing to build a home at a lot classified as “unbuildable” but zoned for residential.

Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and city officials are trying to balance preserving private property rights, avoiding litigation and protecting the public’s interest in ocean access and ocean views.

Read the entire Gloucester Times article.

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12.5.15 Sagamore Hill Open Space

 Essex County Greenbelt Association

The Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle reports that Essex County Greenbelt Association is working on purchasing Sagamore Hill, a 340-acre property located along Sagamore Street at the town line between Hamilton and Ipswich, behind the Donovan Field.

According to Essex County Greenbelt Association, the purchase would be through a $2 million state grant through the Landscape Partnership Program and a $1.5 million private fundraising campaign.  If successful Greenbelt will open the property to the public for passive recreation such as hiking, horseback riding, and more.

Greenbelt is a non-profit land trust dedicated to preserving open space throughout Essex County. The organization has partnered with The Trust for Public Land, a similar, national non-profit dedicated to preserving open space, to purchase Sagamore Hill outright from its private owners.  Greenbelt will own and maintain the property, but will provide the town with a conservation restriction on the land to ensure Sagamore Hill remains an open space.

Read the entire Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle article.

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