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New Condos at Old Middle School Face Stiff Opposition

Groom Construction describes new 41 condos that would be priced from $300,000 to $2 million.

 

The builders of the town's first school in 1894 knew they were giving future students one of the best views of the harbor. 

But they probably never dreamed that 120 years later condominiums built to take advantage of that same view might be valued at $2 million.

The 41 condominiums proposed for the site at 71 Greenwood Ave. would be priced from the $300,000s with the penthouses being listed at $2 million, Bill DiMento, the attorney for , said Monday night.

That is, if the new condos win approval from two town boards.

About 40 residents showed up for the Planning Board's first public hearing on the proposed condominiums Monday night at the . The Zoning Board of Appeals will meet on the same project next week. 

Together the Planning and Zoning Boards have broad authority over the design and scope of the condominium building.

Architect Jim Velleco with Grazad Velleco of Marblehead described the four-story, 104,000-square-foot project as "more open to the sky" than the existing middle school building. "It will provide a good feeling," he said.

Neighbor Ellie Miller disagreed. "There are only 41 residents in the whole neighborhood. Another 41 units will destroy us," she said.

Groom Construction's land planner and architect said the new building will be much smaller than the old Middle School. The new linear-style building will be 86 feet wide facing Greenwood Ave., as compared to the long vacant school building, which is 186 feet wide.

The new residential building will be 11 feet lower at its peak and three feet lower at its base than the school building, Velleco said.

20 percent smaller

Its footprint will be about 20 percent less than the school's, and it will be about 100 feet away from the property line abutting the six homes on Greenwood Terrace, Bill Bergeron with Hayes Engineering said.

Ken Shutzer, an attorney for 10 of the neighbors of the project, told the board it did not matter that the new condo building would be smaller or shorter than the old school building.

The school building is going to be razed. The question the board has to decide, Shutzer said, is whether the proposed 41-unit building is compatible with the neighborhood.

Since there are mostly single-family houses in the neighborhood, he said, "There is no way looking at Greenwood Avenue that this building fits the character of the neighborhood."

The neighbors are concerned about the density of the project and the impacts it will have on flooding, traffic and noise.

The runoff water, which now cascades off the rear of the property, would be controlled with catch basins and piping that directs the water into the storm sewer system, Groom's team of experts said. The new drainage system would help relieve some of the flooding issues of the neighborhood, they said.

A traffic study estimates that the 41 units and possibly 82 cars would produce a manageable 25 trips during the morning rush hour and 29 in the afternoon. During weekdays the condos would produce less than 300 vehicle trips per day.

When Bergeron said the traffic study shows there will be "no preceptable impact on traffic in the neighborhood," the crowd gasped.

Most of the neighbors fear that the 41 new units will exacerbate the high volume of traffic in the neighborhood.

Myron Stone, who spoke in favor of the project, said the traffic at the residences could not be worse than it was when the school was operating.

Other supporters said they were tired of looking at the old school building and thought the new project would look fine.

Some neighbors were concerned that half of the parking spaces and the garage entrance to the other half of the 87 parking spaces were on the north side of the building, which abuts Greenwood Terrace. They wanted more trees and landscaping to protect their backyards from the noise and lights of the cars.

The Planning Board, after listening to more than an hour of debate on the project, continued the hearing until its meeting on August 13.    

John B Goode July 17, 2012 at 02:21 AM
The neighbors should fight this as best they can, clearly they have resolve. If we can't provide road paving, storm drain work and other projects now, this isn't even close to solving the towns problems and leaves neighborhoods around town feeling abandoned and suspicious of the various government boards and departments. The zoning for the property should be consistent with what surrounds it and the neighbors shouldn't even have to be making this fight.
Ryan Adams July 17, 2012 at 03:07 AM
@ John B Goode "If we can't provide road paving, storm drain work and other projects now, this isn't even close to solving the towns problems." $225,000+ in new property tax revenue from these condos will pay for a lot of new paved roads. That said, it should be noted that no one project or solution can fully fix the town's budget problems, but each opportunity we take can be a part of the solution.... and this is certainly one of them. No one is abandoning Greenwood Ave. The town wants to put a beautiful building on that space to replace a dilapidated, empty blight, that will help everyone in this community -- including neighbors -- in the process. I know you don't see this project as beneficial -- and that's your prerogative -- but suggesting the town is abandoning you is a step too far. I say this especially because there are going to be a lot of people in the town, both employees and not, who will make sure the developer does its due diligence and obeys all laws. There is a difference of opinion of what should be put on the site, but that's NOT abandonment. A lot of people are going to be working VERY hard to make sure this goes right -- especially for the neighbors. If you don't agree with the project, please respect that.
Citizen Swamp July 17, 2012 at 09:04 AM
Few facts about the project at the old Middle School/HS site from yesterdays Lynn Item: http://itemlive.com/articles/2012/07/16/news/news06.txt I would think the numbers would also hold true for the Paradise Project on Humphrey and the proposed Temple site project. What the future holds for the Machon property and the old Senior Center is TBD. If the Town Departments and School Department can refrain from adding headcount I would think this additional tax base could fund many improvement projects. CS
Alex July 17, 2012 at 05:14 PM
What you are saying does not look reasonable because, besides chanting "41 is too much", you and Sandy are not saying anything. 41 units is a small building and the fears that people ready to pay from $300K to $2M for an apartment will destroy your neighborhood is a little bit strange. Of course, this is a matter of taste and if the neighbors prefer to maintain present situation (there ARE people who sincerely like ruins, flooding and trash in their neighborhood) their wish is understandable.
Jason July 19, 2012 at 02:58 PM
I am all for having these vacant buildings dealt with in one form or another. I'm not 100% sure I am comfortable though, turning them all into residences. We already have Captain Jack's Inn which has been torn down and is now being turned into a large condominium building (granted, that was not a town owned property). My concern is, we already have a dense commuting situation in the mornings and evenings, effectively only having two main drags in the town (Humphrey and Paradise). Adding more (dense) residences only adds more cars and people to an already highly populated town. In building these structures we are: 1. Losing valuable, irreplaceable town space that could (in the future) be used for parks, school growth or other community projects. 2. Adding a number of potential children to a school system that we will admit has almost no where to grow should we outgrow the existing buildings. 3. Putting more cars on roads that are already crowded and increasing the need for recreational and business parking. Don't get me wrong, I am a strong supporter of local businesses and I know how hard it is trying to make a profit. Building this would obviously give Groom some money and the additional (potential) property taxes brought in may help the town that much more. But I am still not convinced that it's what is right for the town as a whole. I just think we need to look at the big picture for the community and decide if it's right.

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