By Brian Messenger
---- — METHUEN — A proposed zoning change for the 140-home Emerald Pines project is headed for a vote of the City Council after it received a favorable recommendation from the Community Development Board.
Developer Toll Brothers, Inc., is seeking a zoning change on roughly 120 mostly-undeveloped acres off Pine Tree Drive, which runs south off Howe Street near the Haverhill line.
The land must be rezoned from rural residential to multi-family residential before Toll Brothers can seek permits for an “active adult community” featuring 140 single-family homes as well as a clubhouse, swimming pool and bocce courts.
The development would be built at the site of the abandoned Emerald Pines golf course project. In July, a local lawyer representing Toll Brothers told city officials that the homes would be restricted to buyers age 55 and older.
The zoning change will ultimately be decided by the City Council and is slated for discussion Sept. 3. On Wednesday, the Community Development Board voted unanimously to offer the council a favorable recommendation on the matter.
“The board felt it was the best reuse of the land, seeing that the golf course isn’t going to be built,” said board Chairman Stephen DeFeo. “I think the board was pretty satisfied in general. I didn’t hear any negative comments.”
If the zoning change is approved by the council, Toll Brothers will be back before the Community Development Board seeking a special permit. In July, dozens of residents packed City Hall for a public hearing on the project. Chief among their concerns were adding traffic to an already congested part of town, as well as the impact on wildlife.
Road and lighting maintenance and trash removal at Emerald Pines would be run privately, according to a formal petition for the project on file at City Hall. Toll Brothers also intends to make needed improvements to the land and infrastructure, which in turn will enhance the value of nearby homes, according to the petition.
Toll Brothers took ownership of the property earlier this year. According to the company’s formal proposal, the roughly 120-acre parcel where the 140 homes would be constructed will include 83 acres of open space. The proposal also calls for permanent open space restrictions on 34 acres adjacent to the development.
“You have an abandoned property that will come back to life,” said Anthony Copani, a local lawyer representing Toll Brothers. “It’s a good deal for both the city and the developer.”
A development company in 2004 proposed an 18-hole golf course and up to 100 single- and multi-family homes for the site but went bankrupt after clearing much of the land.