EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 2, 2013

Developer asks to postpone vote on housing plan

Needs council OK to build seven apartments in deteriorated inner city building

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — A developer trying to rehabilitate a building in the city’s Mount Washington neighborhood will wait at least another week before asking the council to vote on his project, Council President Robert Scatamacchia said.

Paul Arsenault, the developer and co-owner of the property, is seeking permission from the council to convert the building at 12-13 High St. to seven rental apartments. It was formerly a dual-use building, with a retail store on the first floor and apartments above, but has been vacant for many years.

The project has won approval from city planners, but ran into problems at a prior council meeting.

Councilor William Macek said he would not support the proposal until he receives more specific information about the plan. He said he does not believe there is enough parking on the site or space in the building for seven apartments. Macek also said paperwork on the project was incomplete.

The council was scheduled to consider the proposal tonight, but Scatamacchia said Arsenault has retained a lawyer following his unsuccessful attempt to win the council’s approval last month. Arsenault asked to delay the matter for one week, Scatamacchia said.

Scatamacchia said he expects the council to consider the project at its Dec. 10 meeting. Council approval is required for all multi-unit housing projects.

Arsenault said his plan includes 14 parking spaces and that he needs only 11 spaces under current zoning rules.

Economic Development Director William Pillsbury said the project has the potential to have a positive impact on an impoverished section of the city that is near downtown.

“We see this proposal as an investment in one of our target neighborhoods that’s going to upgrade a very visible property,” Pillsbury said. “When a private investor wants to fix up a vacant building and bring it back to life, we try to assist them.”

Scatamacchia said the property is “a mess” and that he would prefer to give Arsenault permission to develop it before he walks away from the project.

According to city tax records, the property is assessed at $283,000 and is owned by 13 High Street Realty Trust, Kerri Fonduto trustee. City Assessor Stephen Gullo said the property would be reassessed after it is renovated.

Arsenault’s proposal says he is open to reserving some of the apartments for low-income renters, but that he hopes to retain the option of converting the units to for-sale condominiums in the future.

According to the proposal, the renovated building will retain its “family-style look” on the front and consist of three, 3-bedroom units and four, 2-bedroom units. It is to include laundry and storage areas for tenants.