EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

September 2, 2013

Emerald Pines zoning change headed for vote

METHUEN — The City Council is expected to vote tomorrow on a proposed zoning change for the 140-home Emerald Pines project off Howe Street.

Approval of the zoning change will allow developer Toll Brothers Inc., to apply for a special permit with the Community Development Board. Toll Brothers hopes to build an “active adult community” on roughly 120 mostly-undeveloped acres off Pine Tree Drive, which runs off Howe Street near the Haverhill line.

The development would be built at the site of the abandoned Emerald Pines golf course project and consist of 140 single-family homes as well as a clubhouse, swimming pool and bocce courts. In July, a local lawyer representing Toll Brothers told city officials that the homes would be restricted to buyers age 55 and older.

“It’s a good project because something was going to be built,” said East District City Councilor Ron Marsan. “The city can’t be naive to think it would (remain) open space. It’s the best the city can get.”

Before permitting process begins, the land must be rezoned from rural residential to multi-family residential.

“We’re talking about a major zoning change for that side of the city,” said City Council Chairman Sean Fountain.

Fountain said he temporarily pulled the zoning change proposal from Tuesday’s meeting agenda to ensure councilors received additional information on the project’s potential impact on traffic and public safety.

With that information now in hand, Fountain said the proposal will appear on the agenda.

In July, dozens of residents packed City Hall for a public hearing on the Emerald Pines project. Chief among their concerns were adding traffic to an already congested part of town, as well as the impact on wildlife.

Fountain said he wants to ensure that residents who expressed concern at the public hearing get feedback Tuesday night.

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