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Merrimack Valley

August 14, 2013

Emerald Pines zoning change to be examined

Developer seeking town OK for 140-home project

METHUEN — Emerald Pines, a 140-home proposal off Howe Street near the Haverhill line, faces its first hurdle at tonight’s Community Development Board meeting.

Developer Toll Brothers, Inc., is seeking a zoning change on roughly 120 mostly-undeveloped acres off Pine Tree Drive. Community Development Board Chairman Stephen DeFeo said he expects the board will make a recommendation on the proposal tonight. The zoning change will ultimately be decided by the City Council.

The land must be rezoned from rural residential to a multi-family residence district 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 Community Development Board will meet at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. The board can make either a favorable or unfavorable recommendation to the council. DeFeo said the project was well received by the board at a July public hearing.

“Lots of people still have lots of questions,” added board member Joseph Leone. “We heard about the project at the joint public hearing. In between then and now, there’s a lot of homework to be done.”

If the zoning change is approved, Toll Brothers will be back before the board seeking a special permit for the project.

Toll Brothers initially sought a looser “age-targeted” designation. But in May, several city councilors said the homes should instead be “age-restricted” to prevent young families from moving in, which in turn would place additional burden on the school system and add to traffic concerns.

Dozens of residents also packed City Hall for a public hearing July 10. Chief among their concerns were adding traffic to an already congested part of town, as well as the impact on wildlife.

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