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3.1.19 Housing Watch: Adaptive Reuse Zoning Proposal Defeated in Salem; Up for Reconsideration at March 14th City Council Meeting

Last night, the proposed Municipal & Religious Adaptive Reuse Zoning Ordinance was defeated in a 7-4 vote before the Salem City Council. Eight votes, or a super majority of the Council as required by state law to enact local zoning changes, were needed for passage. This ordinance would provide a permitting pathway for the reuse and redevelopment of underutilized municipal and religious properties in Salem for potential housing opportunities.

Amendments to the ordinance to increase the affordability requirement from 10% to 20% and to reserve housing exclusively for Salem residents were voted down, while the Area Medium Income (AMI) requirement was lowered from 80% to 60%. Despite that change, the ordinance was voted down after 9 months of debate. 

Prior to adjournment, a motion to reconsider was filed by Ward 6 Councillor Beth Gerard. That means the ordinance will be placed back on the agenda for a vote at the next Salem City Council Meeting on Thursday, March 14th at 7:00 P.M. at Salem City Hall. 

Click here to read NSAR's letter of support for the Municipal & Religious Zoning Overlay District. NSAR Salem Town Monitors David Friedberg and Cynthia Nina-Soto along with other NSAR members from Salem have attended and spoken at many of the public hearings on this ordinance.

In the meantime, a Salem Community Housing Forum is scheduled for next Tuesday, March 5th from 7:00 - 8:30pm at the Community Life Center (401 Bridge St) in Salem which will feature a community discussion on inclusionary zoning, housing needs and affordability in Salem, hosted by Mayor Kim Driscoll and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). 

In a related note, Governor Charlie Baker's proposed Housing Choice Initiative before the State Legislature, which is supported by the Massachusetts Association of REALTORS®, would lower the requirement for local zoning changes to a simple majority for municipalities. Governor Baker reiterated his support for the housing production bill earlier this week.


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2.28.19 Meeting Notice: Full City Council to Vote Tonight on Salem's Adaptive Reuse Overlay District

After nearly five hours of debate on Tuesday night, the Salem City Council's Committee on Ordinances, Licenses and Legal Affairs (OLLA) referred the Religious & Municipal Adapative Reuse Zoning Ordinance positively out of Committee to the full City Council which will take up the Ordinance for a vote tonight at 7:00pm at Salem City Hall (93 Washington Street).

This ordinance would provide a permitting pathway for the reuse and redevelopment of underutilized municipal and religious properties in Salem for potential housing opportunities. NSAR supports this proposed Zoning Overlay District which has also drawn support from The Salem News Editorial Board

Zoning changes require support from a supermajority of the Council (8 votes) over the course of two City Council meetings.

Click here for The Salem News coverage of Tuesday's Committee meeting.

Click here for the proposed and incorporated changes to the ordinance

The OLLA Committee stripped a long list of Planning Board changes from the package Tuesday night and debated the percentages of affordability that should be required for developers, eventually landing at 10% affordability at 80% of the Area Medium Income. Additionally, one significant changed included the Council's removal of "new construction" off of the Overlay District's "dimensional table" meaning any new construction or additions to the property would require variances from the city’s Zoning Board. 

The North Shore Community Development Coalition, based in Salem, is presently in talks with the Archidocese of Boston to potentially redevelop two sites included in the ordinance into 100% affordable housing: the Immaculate Conception on Hawthorne Boulevard and St. James Church on Federal Street.

Next Tuesday, March 5th, Mayor Kim Driscoll will also introduce an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance at a Community Housing Forum set for 7-8:30pm at the Community Life Center (401 Bridge St). This forum will feature a community discussion on housing needs, initiatives and affordability in Salem.

NSAR encourages Salem REALTORS® to attend tonight's Salem City Council meeting in support of this Zoning Overlay District. Please contact Government Affairs Manager Kristian Hoysradt at 978-232-9410 for additional information on tonight's meeting or the proposed ordinance.


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2.27.19 State News: Governor Charlie Baker Renews Push for Housing Production Bill

Governor Charlie Baker has doubled down on legislation to make it easier for cities and towns to relax zoning restrictions to facilitate the construction of new housing, casting the problem of affordability and availability of housing as one central to the state's ability to address other vexing problems like transportation options and talent recruitment for jobs.

Baker, who proposed similar legislation last session but failed to secure a vote in either branch of the Legislature, said the housing problem has only gotten worse since he first proposed the concept in 2017.

The lack of inventory, Baker said, has made it harder for young people to buy a home and for workers to live close to their jobs, forcing more cars on the roads and longer commutes.

"We're making a big mistake with respect to the future that we all want if we don't step up and fix this," Baker said.

The bill the governor planned to file closely mirrors legislation he filed in late 2017, but which never came up for a vote in the House or Senate despite a broad coalition of support. Some legislators and housing advocates at the time said they wanted to see a zoning reform bill go further, and include tenant protections and elements geared toward affordability, among other things.

"I would have preferred to have that pass, what the governor had done last year," House Speaker Robert DeLeo told the News Service on Wednesday. "I think that bill at least moved the ball forward in terms of resolving at least part of the issue in terms of housing."

Asked why he didn't call a vote, the speaker said, "We were working with various groups at the time. We thought we could get to a finalization and when we got to a finalization unfortunately we were in informal sessions at that point so it was what it was."

Baker put the issue back on the table for the new two-year session Wednesday with an event on the Grand Staircasesurrounded by nearly 50 municipal leaders and advocates for employer groups, realtors and homebuilders...

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll said that in her city she has been working for eight months on a plan to redevelop vacant historic buildings that used to be Catholic Church owned schools. It failed on a 7-4 vote Tuesday night.

"It underscores even the easy stuff isn't easy," Driscoll said.

Driscoll also addressed the critics that characterized Baker's bill last session as just a baby step forward. "It's a triple all day long," she said, using a baseball analogy.

More on this from WGBH and the Boston Business Journal.

State House Winter

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2.26.19 Housing Watch: Plans Unveiled for 180-unit Housing Development at former CinemaWorld Site

At an Open House this past Monday at Salem High School, developers previewed plans for a 180-unit residential and commercial development along Highland Ave in Salem where the CinemaWorld entertainment complex had previously been proposed.

Read more here from The Salem News

"Jefferson Apartment Group, a company headquartered in Virginia, met with area residents at an open house at Salem High School Monday night. It featured a version of the project that is due for revision based on comments, long before anything is filed at City Hall, according to Sandi Silk, Jefferson's senior vice president.

They're proposing to build 180 apartments at 355 to 373 Highland Ave., Silk said. The project would use seven different pieces of property that fall into two zoning districts: business highway, which has one set of limitations and business park development introducing another. Much of the land has already been cleared of trees and buildings to deal with contamination discovered as the CW Theaters proposal was coming together.

Of the 180 units currently proposed, 10 percent — 18 units — would be tagged as affordable for households at 80 percent of the area median income or lower, Silk said. The plans are drawn up to support about 300 parking spaces, a fair chunk of which surround a roughly 6,000-square-foot proposed restaurant front and center on the site.

Neighborhood response was much more favorable than what was heard at cineplex meetings, but criticism still focused heavily on traffic. Easel pad sheets asking for feedback were covered in comments focusing on the issue, while others also raised concerns about water and sewer impact, and whether 18 units of affordable housing was enough for the city."


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2.25.19 Meeting Notice: Open House Tonight for New Housing Proposal on Highland Ave in Salem (Former CinemaWorld Property)

Salem Ward 3 City Councillor Lisa Peterson will host an “Open House” style conversation tonight for residents to learn more about the mixed-use residential development proposal for the property at 355-378 Highland Avenue – site of the former "CinemaWorld" proposal.

The Open House will take place from 5:30-8:00pm at Salem High School (77 Wilson Street) and will offer an opportunity for residents to meet the developers from Jefferson Apartment Group, check out the conceptual plans, ask questions, and share feedback. 

More information and updates are available on the Open House Facebook Event.


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2.21.19 Housing Watch: Apartments Set for One Main Street in Downtown Peabody

According to Peabody Main Streets, One Main Street in downtown Peabody will be getting a facelift along with 20 new apartment units, in addition to the retail and restaurant space presently available.

More on this project available here.


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