EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 25, 2013

Housing development OK'd in Salem

By Doug Ireland
direland@eagletribune.com

---- — SALEM — Construction of nearly two dozen homes will finally begin soon on a 45-acre site off Silver Brook Road.

The Planning Board voted, 5-1, Tuesday to approve a request by Mako Development to begin a 22-home project that’s been plagued by financial and legal issues for several years.

Neighbors’ concerns about potential flooding and a court battle over drainage halted building of the homes since 2010, when the board previously approved the project.

The three-year delay in construction meant Mako had to go before the board again to seek reapproval, town planning director Ross Moldoff said.

“The town attorney said if they hadn’t started construction and the plan hasn’t been recorded, they need to come back and restart the process,” Moldoff said.

The 45-acre wooded site is one of the largest undeveloped properties remaining in town, he said. Twenty-four acres would be preserved as open space.

Improving economic conditions and the board’s latest approval mean construction can finally start, according to Ralph Meissner, owner of DHB Homes of Londonderry.

“It has certainly improved since 2009 and 2010, when it was a difficult time,” Meissner said.

Although Meissner said Monday he hopes work can begin later this year, it probably won’t start until next spring. DHB is already building homes on a 15-lot site down the street and has other residential projects underway in Windham and Pelham.

Neighbors Deborah Anderson and Barry Dubois contend the project should not be built, saying it would exacerbate the existing drainage problem. They are concerned about water running down the large hill where homes would be built and flooding their property.

“We don’t see how this development can be completed without adding more water,” said Anderson, who lives at 11 Surrey Lane.

Dubois, a resident of 47 Silver Brook Road, agreed.

“We all know there is a lot of water coming from that lot,” he said.

Concerns about drainage prompted another abutter to sue the town for approving the project in 2010, Moldoff said. The lawsuit was later withdrawn.

Board members had numerous questions about the project, but only Phyllis O’Grady voted in opposition.

“I think it could work if it had a lot less houses on this hill,” O’Grady said. “At this time, I’m still not going to approve it.”

The board also approved a request from the Boys & Girls Club of Salem to keep a 40-foot storage trailer behind its building at 3 Geremonty Drive.

The trailer was donated to the club by Victorian Park owner Larry Belair, who is closing his miniature golf course and family entertainment center this fall after 22 years.

But town regulations prevent the club from keeping the trailer on its property for more than a year unless it receives a variance, Moldoff said.

Boys & Girls Club representative Mark Gross said the club would use the trailer to store athletic equipment.