EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 18, 2014

Emerald Pines project clears final local hurdle

By Douglas Moser

---- — METHUEN — The national developer Toll Brothers received its final local approval for a 140-home development at Emerald Pines along the Haverhill border, leaving just state and federal water permits before construction can begin.

The Conservation Commission approved the development with a list of conditions that included setting some land set aside for open space and outlining when work can begin, according to conservation officials.

Conservation Commission Chairman Suzanne Lamoureux said the April 3 vote was unanimous, and no one spoke at the meeting.

Last month, the Community Development Board approved the plans and the City Council last year approved a zoning change.

Toll Brothers must now get water and wetlands permits from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act Office and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The multi-million dollar development has been moving right through the process since Pennsylvania-based Toll Brothers purchased the three roughly 155-acre plots at the end of 2012 and scaled down the plans by stripping out the proposed golf course and proposing more modestly-priced homes.

Toll Brothers’ plan envisions 140 villa-style, single-family detached homes as a 55-and-older community on the site off Howe Street at the Haverhill city line. The development would include a homeowners’ association to oversee maintenance, roads and trash pickup on the site.

City and developer officials have said the development, because of the age restriction, will have limited traffic impact in the area and on city services.

Toll Brothers, which built and sold homes in a similar age-restricted community off Wheeler Street called Regency at Methuen, will build a club house with tennis courts, a bocce ball court, a pool, a putting green and a community garden. The houses will resemble those built at Regency.

The houses will be built on about 38 acres, leaving more than 100 acres as open space. The new proposed development will be further away from wetlands than the previous golf course proposal, potentially easing approval with the state Department of Environmental Protection, city community development director William Buckley has said.

DEP must sign off on the plan because of the wetlands and because of violations by Emerald Pines’ previous owner. Toll Brothers also settled claims with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in 2012 that it allowed polluted rain water to runoff its construction sites, including two in Methuen.

City officials estimate that construction and sale of the houses will generate $1 million in one-time permit revenue for the city and nearly $1.3 million in annual tax revenue. For comparison, Buckley has said the Loop generates $1.4 million in tax revenue every year.

Toll Brothers submitted its proposal to the Community Development Board and Conservation at the end of last year. Both boards held hearings on the project before voting to approve it.

Mayor Stephen Zanni’s owns one of the houses on Pine Tree Drive with his daughter and son-in-law, according to the city assessor’s office.

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