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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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12.30.14 Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk Resigns; Takes State Position

Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk

The Gloucester Times reports that Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk is resigning and taking the position of Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development in the incoming administration of Governor-elect Charlie Baker.

A division of the Secretary of State’s office, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development employs about 800 and operates with an annual budget of $400 million.  Kirk stated that her duties will include a special emphasis on the maritime economy."

In November Kirk easily won her fourth consecutive election as Mayor, after previously serving two terms on the School Committee.  She has not announced the effective date of her resignation.  According to the city charter, if Kirk's resignation takes effect on or before Dec. 31, the city council will order a special city-wide election to choose Kirk's successor to serve out the remainder of the term. That special election will have to be conducted within 90 days of the mayor's office formally becoming vacant. 

If the effective date of Kirk's resignation falls after Dec. 31, the city council then will have 14 days to elect one of its members as the new mayor to serve out the last year of the remaining term. If the council fails to elect a new mayor within the prescribed two weeks, the sitting council president (currently Ward 1 Councilor Paul McGeary) would assume the office of mayor until the term expires.

Read the entire Gloucester Times article.

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12.10.14 Affordable Housing Proposal in Wenham

Proposed 60-unit elderly affordable housing project on Maple Street in Wenham
The Salem News reports that Harborlight Community Partners is pursuing a 40B project on Maple Street in Wenham.

Read more about Chapter 40B here.

The proposed project would consist of 60-elderly-only units, build on a 18,588sf, roughly 35-foot-tall building on 3.5 acres of land.  About 65 parking spaces are planned, according to Harborlight executive director Andrew DeFranza.

All 60 units will be affordable, one-bedroom apartments measuring 650 square feet.  They’ll rent at two rates: 48 units at $988 for households with an income below 60 percent of the area median income and 12 units at $529 for households with an income less than 30 percent of the area median.

If approved, the project will be financed in part with public dollars.  Harborlight, based out of Beverly, MA who already owns and operates assisted living, elderly and family housing throughout the North Shore, is looking to secure $975,000 from Wenham’s Community Preservation Committee and another $850,000 from the Wenham Affordable Housing Trust.

Read the entire Salem News article.


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12.2.14 Brimbal Avenue Project in Beverly Still On for Spring 2015

Brimbal Avenue, Beverly

The Salem News reports that, despite as stated elsewhere, the $5 million Brimbal Avenue improvement projection is on schedule to begin in the spring of 2015.

The Brimbal Avenue, Beverly project involves building a new connector road between Brimbal Avenue and Sohier Road at Exit 19 off Route 128. The new connector road will be built in the same location as the current road - a rotary will be added to each end of the road in an attempt to improve the traffic flow.

The project will also include widening a section of Brimbal Avenue, along with creating new sidewalks and bike lanes.

According to Beverly mayor, Mike Cahill, the $5 million project is waiting on final approval from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Transportation, which he expects before the end of the calendar year. Once those approvals are granted, Beverly will receive a $5 million state grant for the development.  Mayor Cahill stated that at least one lane of the connector road should remain open during construction.

Read the entire Salem News article.

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