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May 16, 2014

Senior housing project approved in Salem

Homes to be built on former Searles site

SALEM — Ground will soon be broken for a 46-unit senior housing development on the former Edward Searles property on Pond Street.

After three public hearings over the last year, the Planning Board granted unanimous approval this week for Stone Bridge Estates, proposed by developer Tim Oriole of Pelham.

The development at 67-73 and 77 Pond St. was approved in the wake of residents’ concerns the 25-acre project would overwhelm their quiet neighborhood.

Only one neighbor addressed the board at its meeting Tuesday night, Cooper Beech Drive resident Gene Hulshult. Although Hulshult has opposed the project’s size, he said it would be a beautiful development.

The project was proposed under the town’s senior housing ordinance. It was the first senior housing proposed in Salem in years, town planning director Ross Moldoff said.

The 15-year-old ordinance’s density requirements allow more homes to be built if they are designated for people 55 and older, he said.

The development will be built on a 25-acre site that was once the sprawling Searles estate and includes a turn-of-the-century caretaker’s cottage, stone walls and bridges that will remain, according to project engineer Karl Dubay.

Searles was a renowned interior decorator, born in 1841, best known for his English-style stone castle in Windham that bears his name. The Methuen native owned several hundred acres in Salem, Windham and Methuen, and also built Stillwater Manor in Salem before dying in 1920.

Moldoff told board members that if Oriole agreed to the final conditions for the project, it was ready to move forward. A conditional use permit was needed because of the project’s potential impact on wetlands.

“From my point of view, we are ready to go with the plan,” Moldoff said.

Dubay said Oriole is prepared to begin construction as soon as possible. The project will be completed in three phases, with the first calling for the construction of 11 of the 46 homes, Dubay said.

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