Massachusetts General Laws
-- Sandi Osattin
Back to The Weekly News Digest
Marblehead has faced a rush of development under this act in the past two years.
Though we can in no way discount the impact on their surrounding neighborhoods, Marblehead (Peach) Highlands and Oliver’s Pond had none of the complex implications that now apply to the lead mills property on Rt. 114 at the Marblehead/Salem border where Boston developer KSS Realty Partners is seeking approval for 44 condominium units in one four-story and three six-story buildings. This property has long been the subject of concern to the community due to the high levels of contamination on the land and in the Forest River from prior industrial uses.
The Board of Selectmen holds public hearings at their bi-weekly meetings in the Selectmen’s room at Abbot Hall to take comments from town department heads and boards, as well as concerned citizens. The Selectmen then submit their own opinions as well as those discussed at the meeting to Mass Housing, the state agency which oversees the 40B regulatory process. Mass Housing makes an eligibility determination based upon the developer’s application and the verbal and written comments presented at the meeting. The Selectmen typically request that all comments be submitted in writing, and those unable to attend should address their letters to the Board itself, however, copies may also be sent directly to Mass Housing at One Beacon Street Boston 02108 Attention: Sarah Hall.
Once Mass Housing makes their determination, the process of obtaining a comprehensive permit (which circumvents all local zoning regulations) begins with meetings held under the auspices of the Marblehead Zoning Board of Appeals. In the past and in current hearings at least one and sometimes more of the highly skilled members of the ZBA refuse to sit on these deliberations.
Because of the sensitive nature of the property and the requirement for additional environmental oversight, the Conservation Commission and the Board of Health will also review any future plans. In the case of Lead Mills, this property has for the past 35 years been a large tract of naturally vegetated open space along the shoreline adjacent to the bike path and town owned conservation land. Obviously, any development has open space and environmental implications.
What can citizens do?
• Be attentive! Review the developer’s application (in the Selectmen’s office) and the environmental studies (available at Abbot Pubic Library or Salem State Enterprise Center) which have been submitted outlining the levels of contaminants on the site. But remember that these studies have been provided by consultants hired and paid by the proponents.
• Ask questions! What will the impact of a development of this enormous size and scale have on our quality of life, traffic, health and safety, especially the intended methods of ”remediation” by binding the pollutants on site and burying them beneath the buildings?
• Attend meetings! Talk about your concerns publicly and voice your objections at every public forum connected to this project. The meetings can be lengthy and sometimes tedious, but apathy only serves to pave an easy path for developers.
To quote John Sawyer, Senior Vice President for KSS Realty Partners: “This is a business decision. If I lived next door to it, I wouldn’t be very happy with it either.”
Arrogance and rapacious development do not show respect for our community's best interests or respect for our citizens. Only your involvement can rein in this trend and protect our community.
Watch this page for future updates.