March 20, 2017
By STEVE FREKER
MEDFORD — City residents want to see a rundown lot near the Roberts School developed, but some would like to see a residential building proposed for the site downscaled.
HHC One Salem is proposing to build a four-story condominium complex at 234 Salem St. at the corner of Court Street where a former auto repair station and some vacant buildings stand.
The site is zoned for three-story construction. After originally seeking to build a larger, five-story residential building with 25 units, HHC One sought a zoning variance to allow construction of the four-story building with 19 units.
City Councilor Michael Marks joined 50 neighbors in telling Zoning Board of Appeals members last Thursday they believe four stories is “too big” a structure for the neighborhood.
“I support (constructlon) on the property, but four stories is too much,” Marks said.
HHC’s plans call for tearing down three existing buildings: a vacant auto repair shop and one-time gas station at 236 Salem St., a vacant commercial building at 240 Salem St. and a two-family house at 4-6 Court St.
Two property lots would be combined for the new structure, which would include six one-bedroom and 13 two-bedroom condominium residences, several of which would be affordable housing units.
Construction is proposed for 12 months.
HHC’s variance request will be weighed by the board against evidence that the developer faces financial hardship if it cannot implement its project plan. HHC contends it faces a costly environmental site cleanup which a consultant told the board last week could cost $500,000. James Curtis, an environmental engineer from Cooperstown Environmental of Andover, speaking on HHC’s behalf, said that amount represents cleanup requirements in line with state environmental regulations.
“We have a number of different types of soil at this site,” Curtis said. “It may be quite a bit more than that depending on the groundwater situation.”
Board chairman Scott Carman questioned if “legal precedent” provides an argument for linking environmental contamination associated with the former gas station to a developer financial hardship claim.
“If someone gets a property for a dollar because it’s non-conforming and it was cut out that way, then that can eliminate a hardship,” Carman said.
Carman and fellow board members postponed their vote until they receive more information on the proposal. The board wants a more exact estimate of how much it will cost to clean up the property; the cost of acquiring the property; and copies of the environmental study performed at the site by the end of the month.
A decision on granting a zoning variance could be rendered by the board at its next scheduled meeting on April 20.