EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 8, 2013

Public invited to speak on development proposal

By Brian Messenger
bmessenger@eagletribune.com

---- — METHUEN — Details of a proposed 140-home development off Howe Street will be discussed Wednesday night at City Hall and residents are invited to offer feedback on the project.

The site in question is home to the abandoned Emerald Pines golf course project near the Haverhill line. Toll Brothers, Inc., is looking to transform the area into an “active adult community” featuring 140 single-family homes, a clubhouse, swimming pool and bocce courts. The first hurdle for the development is a zoning change.

The new Emerald Pines project would be built on roughly 120 mostly-undeveloped acres off Pine Tree Drive. Toll Brothers wants the land rezoned from rural residential to a multi-family residence district.

A joint public hearing scheduled for 6:30 p.m. between the City Council and Community Development Board will feature a presentation from Toll Brothers, which is also currently building the 240-unit Regency at Methuen on Wheeler Street.

“This is the first step in a multi-layered process,” said Methuen Community Development Director William Buckley. “We’re encouraging all residents interested in the future of the land Emerald Pines was going to be built on to learn what Toll Brothers has planned for the site.”

The Community Development Board is expected to make a recommendation on the zoning change in August. The zoning change would then require approval from the City Council.

Some city officials have already expressed concern about the proposed development’s impact on traffic and schools.

At the center of discussion will likely be whether the proposed development will be “age-targeted” or “age-restricted” to 55-or-older home buyers. Several city councilors have said publicly the homes should 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.

A Toll Brothers representative told city councilors in May that he previously-approved golf course plans would have had a much greater impact on the city than the proposal now under consideration.

In 2004, R & D Development obtained a city permit to develop an 18-hole golf course, full-service clubhouse and function facility, and between 75 and 100 single- and multi-family homes on the property.

R & D Development ultimately went bankrupt, but not before 19 lots were cleared and 14 homes were built on Pine Tree Drive and Muirfield Lane. Significant land clearing for the golf course also took place, along with infrastructure work.

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.