EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 29, 2013

Hearing slated on Salem zoning amendments

Voters to consider proposals in March

By Doug Ireland

---- — SALEM, N.H. — Residents will get a chance tomorrow night to comment on a series of zoning amendments before voting on them in March.

The Planning Board's public hearing begins at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The six proposed amendments would do everything from tighten current ordinances to allow for rezoning of the Police Department property on Veterans Memorial Parkway.

"We are just trying to clean them up," said board Chairman Robert Campbell.

After residents expressed their views, the board would vote to include the amendments on the ballot, Campbell said. A second public hearing would be held if necessary.

Some of the proposed amendments would simply expand or clarify language in town ordinances written more than 20 years ago, but one ordinance is aimed at rezoning the 15.5-acre site that's been home to the police station since 1966.

Another would allow healthcare facilities — including an increasing number of urgent care centers moving to Salem — to be permitted in the commercial-industrial district without the need to request a variance.

Although there's been talk of the need for a new police station for years, there are no immediate plans to build one, according to Selectmen Chairman Everett McBride Jr. and Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten.

Selectmen and Town Manager Keith Hickey discussed a proposed rezoning of the property last month to give the town more flexibility for marketing the site if a decision is made someday to sell the land and build a new station elsewhere.

The amendment calls for rezoning the site from commercial-industrial and town center property to all commercial-industrial. That's expected to increase the property's value and draw more interest from potential buyers.

"The idea is if we build a new police station somewhere else, we want to get the most money we can for it," McBride said last month.

McBride and fellow Selectmen James Keller have expressed support for construction of a public safety complex to house the police and fire departments.

Hickey proposed the construction of an $8.7 million police station and also a West End fire station in a five-year capital improvement plan he presented to selectmen in June 2012.

But money for the two stations was later removed from the plan after it was decided they were not immediate priorities.

Campbell said the establishment of several urgent care centers and other healthcare facilities in Salem in the last few years has prompted the need to consider allowing these as permitted uses under the zoning ordinance.

Another zoning amendment would allow for more commercial development by removing restrictions on large retail stores and restaurants being established in the area of Hampshire Road and Garabedian Drive, Campbell said.

Residents can also comment on a proposed amendment to regulate the use of temporary signs for festivals, craft fairs and similar events.

Non-profit groups would be allowed to post temporary signs for special events no more than twice a year. Those signs would have to be removed within 24 hours of the end of the event, according to Assistant Town Manager Leon Goodwin.

The organizations must be registered as non-profits with the New Hampshire attorney general’s office, he said. No more than two signs can be posted on a single property.

Representatives from non-profit organizations have criticized the town’s efforts to restrict the placement of temporary signs, which they say are needed to promote events such as the Salem Farmers Market and annual SalemFest celebration.

Currently, temporary signs can only be posted on the property where the special events are held or with special permission from the private property owner.

The final two amendments would add provisions for conditional use permits in the Depot Overlay District and revise the procedure for giving public notice for building permit applications.