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GA Blog: Salem

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7.17.20 Salem's New Green Building Ordinance

A new, environmentally focused ordinance was introduced at the last Salem City Council meeting. The Salem Green Building Ordinance would introduce new requirements for commercial and residential new construction and renovation of buildings greater than 5,000 square feet as well as requirements for any roof undergoing major construction and any sale of residential property.

The ordinance states that:

  • All new commercial or residential construction greater than 5,000 square feet must be certified LEED Silver or higher or be subject to a penalty. All commercial and multi-family buildings greater than 20,000 square feet LEED Gold Rating or higher.
  • Current structures with new additions that go to 5,000 square feet or city-owned/city-financed buildings would be subject to the same requirements as new construction.
  • Any residential property that is sold within Salem must provide the City Building Department and any potential buyers a Mass Save Energy Assessment of the property (done within two years prior to sale) and information regarding the last two years of yearly/monthly energy costs and use.
  • Any roof undergoing major construction must be covered in either solar photovoltaic (PV) panels or a green roof system (covered in vegetation). Construction projects affected include new construction, vertical and horizontal extensions, and major modifications to the roof requiring a permit. A solar assessment shall be submitted to the Sustainability, Energy and Resiliency Committee (SERC) prior to the issuance of a Building Permit.

The ordinance has been sent to the Public Health, Safety & Environment City Council Subcommittee for review. There is expected to be Public Hearings on the ordinance likely this fall.

You can read more about the ordinance here.


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7.16.20 Salem Resident Nominated to Housing Court

A local Salem resident, Alexander Mitchell-Munevar, has been nominated by Governor Baker as a judge on the Massachusetts Housing Court.

The Housing Court handles cases such as landlord-tenant issues, health and building code violations, and discrimination complaints. There are currently 2 open positions no the 15 member court.

Alexander Mitchell-Munevar began working on housing issues in 2008 at Greater Boston Legal Services and has since worked representing low-income tenants. He also helped found the Latino Leadership Coalition and serves on the Salem Board of Registrars of Voters.

The Governor’s Council will vote on whether to confirm the nomination.

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7.10.20 Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance in Salem Falls Short

Yesterday, the Salem City Council voted on the Inclusionary Zoning ordinance which failed to meet the required supermajority for first passage.  Failure to meet the required supermajority means the Inclusionary Zoning cannot be reheard until 2021.

The ordinance had gone through several changes in an attempt to come to a compromise on the measure. Those changes included an increase to 12% of units be made Affordable instead of 10%, not allowing payments to the Affordable Housing Trust for fractional units (for example in a 10 unit project that would require 1.2 Affordable Units), and a willingness for further conversation on the 25% density bonus given to developers before second passage.

An amendment was made and seconded to remove the 25% density bonus but the amendment did not pass.

The final vote was 7 in favor and 4 opposed.  8 votes in favor are needed to pass a zoning ordinance of this nature.

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5.29.20 Salem Accessory Dwelling Unit Ordinance Vote Tabled

Last night, the Salem by-right ADU Ordinance was before the City Council for a vote of first passage.   The ordinance recieved a considerable amount of public comment from Salem residents on both sides of the issue.  The ordinance also featured a substainal change from the language previously presented during the Public Hearing and what was reviewed by the Planning Board.

Only hours before the meeting the ordinance received an edit to add a mandatory cap on the amount of rent a property owner could charge for an ADU unit. This cap would be set at 75% of the HUD Fair Market Rent (used in calculations for voucher programs).  In exchange, the property owner would get a partial property tax exemption.  The property tax exemption had previously been offered only if the property owner opted to have the ADU be an Affordable Housing unit.  You can read the new language here.

Ultimately, the ordinance was tabled, moving the vote for first passage to the next City Council meeting.

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5.26.20 MROD Projects Get Green Light

The Salem Planning Board has given the green light to two North Shore CDC projects that were able to apply for special permits because of the Municipal and Religious Overlay District.  NSAR wrote in support of the overlay when it was considered by the City Council last year.

The two projects, previously vacant religious buildings, will create a total of 62 apartments and add much needed affordable housing. The Immaculate Conception project will offer preference to those working in the arts. The St. James project will give preference to residents 55 and over.

Next step will be coordinating and receiving funding for the project.  You can read more about the wait for funding here.

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5.5.20 Salem Public Hearings Conclude

Yesterday, Public Hearings for the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance and the Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance were concluded during a joint meeting of the Salem City Council and Planning Board.

The vote to conclude the Public Hearings moves the ordinances to the Planning Board for their recommendation.  The Planning Board may make recommendations for changes upon review of the ordinances.  Two possible changes that were discussed during the meeting were to require special permits for ADUs in new construction and the removal of R1 zones from the ADU ordinance.  NSAR will continue to monitor the ordinances as they move through the Planning Board and City Council.

NSAR had a letter of support for the ADU Ordinance read into the record by NSAR President Cynthia Nina-Soto at the first Public Hearing.

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