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3.24.15 72 Apartments Planned on Rantoul Street, Beverly, MA

Windover Construction is looking to build 72 apartments and ground-floor businesses at 131 Rantoul St.,where this building now stands

According to the Salem News, Windover Construction is looking for approval to build a 5-story apartment building at 131 Rantoul Street, with businesses on the ground level and 72 apartments on the top four floors.

The site is currently home to only a few businesses, including Lahey Health Behavioral Services in a three-story building at the sidewalk’s edge.  There is currently open pavement and parking to either side, along with O’Neil Fine Builders and EZ Auto Body to the left.

The 72 apartments will be a mix of studios, 1-bedroom, and 2-bedroom units.  Most of the units will be priced at market rate, with nine (9) below market “affordable” apartments.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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3.17.15 Commonweath Conversations Comes to Lynn

State Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, left, and State Senate President Stan Rosenberg, right, listen to State Sen. Thomas McGee

According to the Lynn Item, state lawmakers have been traveling across Massachusetts for a series of Commonwealth Conversations, visiting 8 regions of the state with stops in several communities in each.  The delegation visited Eastern Bank headquarters in Lynn recently and conducted a roundtable discussion and presentation on the city’s economic development efforts and goals.

With a third of the state Senate and local business and city officials, the group discussed MBTA Blue Line expansion, the success of the Lynn commuter ferry, plans for a Market Basket, and other Lynn downtown revitalization efforts/plans, including efforts to develop the waterfront.

The presentations had common themes: encouraging people with disposable income to want to visit and live in Lynn and the region, and making it easier for these people to get here.

Read the entire Lynn Item article.

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3.9.15 Habitat for Humanity Lottery - 2 Ipswich Condos

6-8 First Street, Ipswich, MA

Wicked Local reports that Habitat for Humanity is building two affordable condos at 6-6 First Street in Ipswich, MA.   The two, 3-bedroom, 1.5 bathroom duplex condominiums (“condexes”) will be side by side in one building, originally built in 1890 as workforce housing for the Ipswich mills.  The interior, currently in terrible condition, will be gutted and rehabbed. The exterior will be restored to what it was historically. 

Habitat has already built three homes on Essex Road, across the street from the Bruni Market Place.

The town took the First Street property for nonpayment of taxes and the property is now part of the Affordable Housing Partnership, said Terry Anderson, affordable housing coordinator.  The town put out a request for proposal to rehab the building and chose Habitat for Humanity.

Each condo is to be sold for approximately $130,000, at no interest.  

The homeowner will be chosen by lottery among qualified buyers - those who live or work in Beverly, Danvers, Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Peabody, Salem, Saugus, Swampscott, Topsfield, Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester, Essex, Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham or Rowley.  The chosen buyer will be requires to spend 400 hours of construction duties as a condition of the purchase.

There are income requirements - the family’s total gross income must fall within the specific ranges based on family size: Three members, $33,880 to $50,820; four members, $37,640 to $56,460; five, $40,70 to $61,020; and six $43,700 to $65,520.

The application deadline is April 30.  

Read the entire Wicked Local article.

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2.23.15 Danvers Downtown Zoning Planning

 

Intersection of Maple and Locust streets in Danvers, MA

According to the Salem News, the Danvers Planning Board is looking at ways to rezone downtown Danvers to create a new gateway to Danvers Square from Route 62.  They are focusing on the compact 0.3 square mail industrial area in and around Maple, Hobart and Locust streets, with a slue of industrial, commercial and retail businesses, including several eateries.

Senior Planner Kate Day and Planning and Human Services Director Karen Nelson say the area is unique, with large parcels and lots of parking that make it different from another industrial zone at the other end of the downtown on High Street.

A lot of the discussion/debate has been whether to take a piecemeal approach to rezoning the downtown, first focusing on this off-to-the-side industrial area, or whether to rezone the entire downtown commercial corridor from Route 62 to Route 128 to allow for a mix of businesses and residences in the same building, which is not currently allowed under current zoning laws.

The town is working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Commission on the Maple Street industrial zoning study, thanks to $15,000 grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development.  Planning Board Chairman Jim Sears said tackling the downtown commercial zones would involve getting input from businesses, property owners, tenants, residents, and the Downtown Improvement Committee. It would require time and money to do research, hold workshops, and call public meetings to gather input.

Read the entire Salem News article.

Watch a walk around the industrial-1 zone in downtown Danvers, from which the Planning Board wants to create a mixed use district:

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2.13.15 Beverly: Brimbal Avenue Project

Projected Brimbal Avenue Project in Beverly

The Salem News reports that Beverly residents, including three city counselors, are urging the Planning Board to vote down the Brimbal Avenue shopping plaza project, stating that it would increase traffic in an already busy area and negatively impact the neighborhoods around Brimbal Avenue.

Developer CEA Group is seeking a special permit from the board to build North Shore Crossing, a 66,000-square-foot plaza that would include four buildings, including a Whole Foods Market.  Traffic studies by the developer and a peer reviewer for the city have said the area would be able to handle the increased traffic that will be caused by the plaza. The city is planning to do a $5 million traffic improvement project around the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange before the shopping plaza would be built.

Many of the speakers said the project does not meet the city’s criteria for granting a special permit, which includes not allowing a project that causes “undue traffic.”  “Virtually anything else built on the site would have less of a traffic impact and still bring in revenue for the city,” Budleigh Avenue resident Jennifer Morris said.  But Attorney Tom Alexander of CEA Group said the developer could build office buildings without a special permit, and that type of development would draw more traffic during peak hours than a shopping plaza.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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2.6.15 Lynn Mandatory Mediation Preceeding Foreclosure Being Challenged

Source:  Lynn Item, February 6, 2015

In 2013, the City or Lynn (over Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s objections), passed a local ordinance that requires mortgage loan servicers to mediate with homeowners prior to proceeding with foreclosures.  If – and only if -- mediation is unsuccessful can the bank proceed with foreclosure actions, and a certificate of mediation is required before Southern Essex Register of Deeds John L. O’Brien Jr. will file a foreclosure deed.

The law was clearly intended to help residents facing foreclosure stay in their home while they worked out a settlement with their lender(s).

However, in 2014, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court struck down a similar law in Springfield, bringing into jeopardy the Lynn mandatory mediation legal protection.  In its 12/19/14 ruling, the SJC stated “...that the foreclosure process is wholly a matter of State regulation absent an expression of a clear intent to allow local regulation.”  

Lynn City Attorney James Lamanna has stated, “There is no question in the mind of this office that the (U.S.) District Court will strike down the Lynn ordinance.”   According to Council President Daniel Cahill, “The argument is state law preempts local foreclosure mediation. I have no interest in getting the city into more lawsuits. It is clear that the banks, if we were to try to continue, would most likely pursue legal action against us,” Cahill said.

The mediation services has reportedly been very effective.  According to Lynn United for Change organizer Isaac Hodes, the Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services, the organization the city picked to handle mediations, has heard 35 cases since the program actively began last May, and Cahill said all 35 resulted in mediation.

Lamanna said Dispute Resolution is currently processing 30 Lynn foreclosure cases. Once they are mediated or a certificate of mediation is sent to O’Brien’s office attesting to a mediation attempt, no additional cases will be handled, if the council revokes the ordinance.

Read the entire Lynn Item article.

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