Board of Selectmen

New harbormaster at the helm in Marblehead

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Marblehead’s new harbormaster, Mark Souza.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — Town officials have chosen Mark Souza as their next harbormaster, a position that’s essential in a waterfront community.

Souza, deputy harbormaster in Beverly for the past six years, was unanimously hired by the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night, following a brief job interview. Souza said he also served as an assistant harbormaster in Beverly.

“It would be the growth perspective,” Souza said of why he was interested in the job. “I wanted to become the harbormaster. I’m very excited. Lifelong goal.”

Souza said when he starts his new job he’ll first focus on customer service, his availability to the public and getting the lay of the land. He was born and raised in Tewksbury, but has always loved the North Shore.

Marblehead has a fantastic history, which makes it very attractive,” Souza said.

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The range for the full-time position is between $64,000 and $85,000, with contract negotiations and a decision on the start date pending, according to Town Administrator John McGinn. But he said the start date could potentially be mid-February.

Marblehead Harbormaster Webb Russell resigned several months ago to move onto other opportunities. He’s been the town’s harbormaster for five years. His last day is March 15, according to McGinn.

“Webb’s been a very good guy in that role, but I certainly respect his desire to move onto other challenges,” McGinn said.

Russell could not be reached for comment.

The harbormaster is responsible for managing the harbor enterprise fund and its budget, along with the administration, operation and revenue generation associated with the town’s harbors and related facilities or properties, according to a job description.

“I’d like to welcome you to Marblehead Harbor, the birthplace of the American Navy,” said Harry Christensen, a member of the board of selectmen, to Souza after his job interview.

Following Russell’s resignation, a selection committee was formed, made up of two members of the Harbors and Waters Board, the board that oversees the harbormaster, and McGinn.

The position was posted, with the search process conducted in November and December. Two rounds of interviews were conducted, and the selection committee collectively made the recommendation that Souza was the best person for the job, McGinn said. The harbors and waters board interviewed Souza on Tuesday and recommended him to the selectmen.

McGinn said Souza was selected because of his extensive experience in harbor management, his certification by the Massachusetts Harbormasters Association, his management style and his solid references from other local harbormasters.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

‘Political payback’ in Swampscott?

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Mary Ellen Fletcher was the only sitting member not reappointed to the Harbor and Waterfront Advisory Committee by the Board of Selectmen recently. The board said it was nothing personal, but she claims it is backlash from her questioning how town funds were spent for two waterfront projects.

“I saw it coming the day after the editorial in the Lynn Item came out,” Fletcher said, referring to an October editorial after she and two other harbor and waterfront advisory committee members brought up the waterfront projects’ spending. “I knew that this was going to happen. I didn’t know it for a fact. It was my gut feeling. The rumor out there was that it made the selectmen look bad.”

Fletcher, along with two other harbor and waterfront advisory committee members, Milton Fistel and Glenn Kessler, appeared before the selectmen last October to present two instances of how the town overspent on waterfront projects, harbor dredging and a proposed breakwater that haven’t moved past the study stage.

“I can’t help but think there was retribution,” said Kessler. “I just got the feeling this was political payback.”

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Kessler spoke in favor of Fletcher at last week’s board meeting, asking the selectmen to reconsider their decision not to reappoint her, calling her a conscientious person, hard worker and a real asset. Fletcher said she received a phone call about the decision from Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, the night before the meeting.

At last week’s board meeting, Peter Spellios, a selectman, proposed two courses of action related to the harbor and waterfront advisory committee. He suggested increasing membership from seven to nine members, which was approved unanimously.

Spellios also proposed reappointing six of the incumbents, not reappointing Fletcher and adding three new members. That recommendation was also approved, but split the board 3 to 2, with Laura Spathanas, vice-chair, and Patrick Jones voting against it.

Dreeben, Spellios and Donald Hause voted in favor, citing a potential conflict of interest as Fletcher started serving on the finance committee last spring. They said there could be a potential conflict if financial matters relating to the harbor and waterfront advisory committee came before the finance committee.

“I would support not reappointing her,” said Hause. “I want to stress that’s not personal or an indictment on her capabilities whatsoever.”

The three new members are Mark Wolinsky, Ulf Westhoven and Ryan Patz. The members reappointed were Jackson Schultz, Mounzer Aylouche, Fistel, Kessler, Jacqueline Kinney and Neil Rossman.

Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell, who is on paid administrative leave and is facing criminal charges for use of of an expired license plate, was also reappointed as ex-officio. Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta and the selectmen are actively looking for an interim harbormaster to replace Bithell.

Spathanas and Jones argued that Fletcher could recuse herself from any finance committee vote pertaining to financial matters with the harbor advisory committee. Jones said he might be more convinced if there was a history of the conflict happening.

“I’m not convinced there yet with this particular person because of the due diligence they do provide,” Jones said. “It’s someone who does put in a lot of time with things.”

Spathanas questioned why the selectmen would take away something Fletcher is passionate about, by taking her off the advisory committee. Despite those arguments, Dreeben said she was still concerned about a conflict of interest, but recognizes Fletcher’s value as a volunteer. The decision had nothing to do with the substance of the person, Spellios added.

“Mary Ellen Fletcher is knowledgeable and well-informed on issues,” Dreeben said when asked if the lack of reappointment was a political move related to the town spending questions. “We greatly value her work on the finance committee.”

Fletcher said the conflict argument didn’t make sense to her. She said if there was a finance committee vote pertaining the harbor advisory committee, it would be a no-brainer that she would recuse herself. The harbor committee also has no fiduciary responsibility, and simply acts as an advisory to the board of selectmen, she added.

“This is just politics,” Fletcher said. “This is not life or death or that serious. It’s just disappointing, that’s all. I have every intention of continuing to be a good volunteer in my community … I don’t think their judgment was in the best interest of the community. It’s just so crazy. If they thought there was any issue of conflict, why did it take them seven months to bring it up?”

Fletcher and Kessler said the incident may deter others from volunteering.

“To reappoint six of us and to not reappoint her, I thought that was both rude and disrespectful,” said Kessler. “You’re really doing a disservice not only to Ms. Fletcher but to the town … I have to say that just leaves a sour taste in my mouth.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Nahant homeowners hold back the flood

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT Many residents will see lower flood insurance bills thanks to the town’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance Study Committee.

FEMA, a federal hazard prevention and response agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, accepted a letter of map revision (LOMR) that will change previously mapped flood zones.

As a result of the revisions, some homeowners will be removed from flood zones while others will get lower flood rates, said Enzo Barile, selectman and chairman of the committee.

“FEMA agreed with our analysis on the town and lowered the base flood elevation in some spots by 15 feet,” Barile said. “We all feel very good about it. It was a group effort and we did a good job. We got the funding for it and we pushed it through. FEMA really admitted that they made a mistake.”

The maps were completed in 2012 and rezoned two years later, changing the elevations and adding at least 50 houses to the flood zone. Barile and the committee believed the maps were incorrect and failed to accurately represent the flood risk for the different areas.

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The Board of Selectmen voted to fund the remapping of flood zones and have a LOMR written last fall.

Flood zones are categorized into either “velocity,” the highest risk for flooding, “A” or “X,” low risk for flooding.

Barile said the typical cost for food insurance is between $500 and $2,000 annually. But some residents are paying as much as $11,000, and for many, the insurance is unnecessary.

Woods Hole Group, a Falmouth-based international environmental, scientific and engineering consulting organization, was hired to write the revision letter.

The LOMR is FEMA’s modification to an effective flood insurance map or flood boundary and floodway map. They are generally based on the implementation of measures that affect or improve the hydrologic or hydraulic characteristics.

The town notified 52 households of the change. Once they respond that they’ve received notification, town employees can tell FEMA. Three months later, residents should see a difference on their bills, Barile said.

Barile will be at Nahant Town Hall on Friday, Jan. 13 and Jan. 20 from noon to 3 p.m. to review maps with residents and answer questions.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Swampscott residents see red over Greenwood

ITEM PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pictured is a sketch for the proposed Greenwood Avenue redevelopment project.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Neighbors are not in favor of the proposal from Groom Construction to convert the shuttered Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue into luxury apartments, with one resident even threatening a lawsuit.

“I feel like the selectmen have not been listening to us,” said Ellie Miller, who lives on Greenwood Avenue. “We are really frustrated. We are willing to go and fight for it. If it means taking the town to court, we are willing to do it.”

The town is already in the midst of pending litigation with Groom Construction, the Salem-based company that originally won approval for condominiums on the site five years ago. That suit has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property.

The lawsuit stemmed from the initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning was reverted to single-family housing.

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For this project, Groom has proposed 28 luxury apartments or condominiums and three garage outbuildings on the site. A zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for the construction of a single structure with 28 units on the site. Potential developers had to adhere to an affordable housing component. In lieu of not offering any affordable units, Groom is responsible for contributing $150,000 to an affordable housing trust fund, which would be used to contribute to affordable housing elsewhere in town.

Peter Kane, director of community development, presented Groom’s proposal at a community forum on Thursday to residents who packed the cafeteria at Swampscott High School.

“Is this the best we can do?” said Jeff Sprague, a Greenwood Terrace resident. “It’s an amazing piece of property and is this the best we can do? You’ve got to be kidding me … This is the same crappy solution that was determined illegal by a judge. You just made it smaller by a little bit. You just changed the zoning to make it work.”

Sprague argued that the neighbors were never consulted about another option, asking how from a design perspective, a massive structure would fit into a neighborhood of single-family homes.

Residents also questioned if the purchase price, which is zero dollars, with Groom responsible for paying $1.3 million to demolish the building, at no cost to the town, had any correlation to the lawsuit. Kane said the purchase price was related to the cost to remediate the property, with the cost for demolition allotted within Groom’s cost to develop the property.

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Drew Epstein, a Rockland Street resident, said he’s secured $73,000 in pledges after sending out an email Wednesday afternoon to about 40 people on the Greenwood Avenue neighborhood list, proposing reusing the former middle school property as parkland.

“I vote for a park,” Epstein wrote in an email. “Other than the ocean, we have so little open space in Swampscott, that a park is the best use of the land. It will cost $1 million to demolish the old school (maybe less). We should tear it down and make soccer fields or basketball courts, and maybe charge for off-street parking or boat storage in the winter. If 1,000 families contribute $1,000 each, we will have the necessary money to do the demolition.”

Epstein said at the forum that the pledges are to keep the property from becoming another development that the town does not need.

“It just does not fit in with the neighborhood,” he said about the proposal.

Groom was one of two respondents to the Request for Proposals released by town officials in September. The other developer, Charing Cross Realty Trust, officially withdrew its proposal Tuesday to build 11 single-family homes on the site. Phil Singleton, a trustee for Charing Cross, cited an uneasiness with a number of decisions made by town officials regarding the selection process as their reason for bowing out.

“There was another person interested in this property and he felt so maligned by the town and he felt everything he proposed was just sort of squashed down and he withdrew his proposal,” said Miller. “He just found it impossible to work with the town.”

The Board of Selectmen is tentatively set to vote on the remaining proposal in late January or early February.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus weighing special meeting

COURTESY PHOTO
Wheelabrator Vice President of Environmental, Health & Safety Jim Connolly shakes hands with with Wildlife Habitat Council Chairman Kevin Butt in this December 2016 photo.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Alliance for Health & the Environment, a coalition of environmental organizations and public officials, will request a Special Town Meeting at tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting as it continues to voice its opposition to the expansion of Wheelabrator Saugus, an energy-from-waste facility that provides disposal of up to 1,500 tons per day of waste from 10 Massachusetts communities.

The Alliance was founded in May 2016. Its focus is on raising awareness about impacts of waste incineration and associated ash disposal activities, reducing pollution associated with waste incineration and ash disposal, and promoting environmental justice for communities impacted by waste incineration and ash disposal, according to its website.

The Alliance is requesting the Board call a meeting to address three articles. If approved by Town Meeting, definitions will be added to the town’s zoning bylaws for “ash,” “landfill” and “ash landfill.” An addition would be made to the Environmental Performance Standards section that restricts the elevation of a landfill to 50 feet above mean sea level.

“No new landfill or new ash landfill shall be established in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern and no existing landfill or ash landfill shall be expanded in or adjacent to an Area of Critical Environmental Concern.”

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The third article would alter the Table of Use Regulations under Zoning By-Laws, Article V, Section 5.6, by adding the principal use “landfill/ash landfill” as a line item under Wholesale Transportation and Industrial.

Wheelabrator maintains that its facility will continue to meet standards.

“Having first received word of this proposal today, we are in the process of analyzing it and may have further comment when that process is complete,” said James Connolly, Wheelabrator Vice President of Environmental Health and Safety in a statement.” We would be surprised and disappointed if the Board of Selectmen were to entertain such a request given that Wheelabrator Saugus continues to follow the regulatory processes required by MEPA and the DEP, the authorities which govern the operations of our monofill.

“We are confident that we will continue to meet all applicable standards and are committed to our ongoing operations in Saugus,” Connolly said. “Wheelabrator Saugus remains an integral part of the region’s environmental infrastructure, providing Massachusetts communities and businesses with an environmentally sound way to convert post-recycled waste to clean energy.”

State Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), who chairs the Alliance, could not be reached for comment.

The group gathered 451 signatures, exceeding the minimum of 200 to call a Town Meeting, said Town Clerk Ellen Schena.

Tonight’s meeting will be at 7:30 at Saugus Town Hall.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Lynnfield selectman seeking re-election

COURTESY PHOTO
Philip Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is seeking re-election to another four-year term

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — Citing long-term projects and renovations still in the works, Philip Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen, is seeking re-election to another four-year term in April.

“We’re still doing a lot of work in town,” said Crawford, who said the need for major renovations to police and fire department buildings are upcoming projects he plans to focus on if re-elected. “You learn a lot as you go. It’s not something anyone ever learns 100 percent. As long as you make yourself available, you’ll do all right.”

In an email, Crawford clarified that he is running for the position of selectman and not specifically chairman of the board.

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Crawford named the defunct Perley Burrill gas station on Salem Street as an example of an issue he has struggled with for the past four years that will finally reach a conclusion with the site’s cleanup.

Continuing to improve athletic fields in town will be another priority, said Crawford, with plans for renovations to Jordan Park in the works pending funding and a potential vote at the spring Town Meeting.

He referenced the sale of historic Centre Farm as another long-term town project that is coming to an end and said that a request for proposal (RFP) will go out on the property later this week, initiating the sale process.  

“There are a lot of good things going on right now,” said Crawford.

In a letter announcing his candidacy, he said, “It has been an honor and privilege serving on the Board of Selectmen for the past four years and I look forward to serving the residents of Lynnfield for another term.”

The letter said Crawford has been a Lynnfield resident for more than 30 years and has children and grandchildren living in town. He served five years on the Finance Committee and has worked in finance for more than three decades.

He said the makeup of the board will go to a vote by its three members after the election results are tallied.


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Leadership sets Swampscott up for 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The town saw a changing of the guard in 2016 and opportunities to bring new life to old buildings.

The Board of Selectmen hired Sean Fitzgerald, a Peabody resident and town manager in Plaistow, N.H., as town administrator in December. Board members and Fitzgerald still have to negotiate the terms of his contract, including salary and a start date.

Former Town Administrator Thomas Younger left his post in mid-October after he accepted the same position in Stoneham in August. Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as interim town administrator since Younger’s departure. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during Cresta’s interim tenure.

Town officials have made filling vacant buildings a priority this past year. The former Machon Elementary School on Burpee Road will soon be transformed into senior affordable housing.

Construction is set to begin in 2019.

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B’nai B’rith Housing, a nonprofit and the developer selected for the project, plans to reuse the original 1920 building and demolish the 1963 addition. The town retains control of the property until the developer closes on the sale and the 99-year ground lease for $500,000 is executed. The purchase includes an additional $50,000 payment for off-site improvements.

The former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue is also slated for redevelopment.

Two developers responded to the town’s Request for Proposals (RFP). Groom Construction has proposed a single structure with 28 luxury apartments or condominiums. Charing Cross Realty Trust wants to build 11 single-family homes. The zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for construction of a single structure with up to 28 units on the site, with developers required to adhere to an affordable housing component.

Groom originally won approval for a different condominium project on the site five years ago, and is in the midst of pending litigation with the town, which has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property. The lawsuit stemmed from an initial zoning change for a multi-family unit approved at Town Meeting, which was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court, reverting zoning back to single-family housing.

The selectmen are tentatively scheduled to vote on one of the two proposals in late January or early February.

The former senior center on Burrill Street is set to be transformed into a community arts building. The board approved a reuse proposal from Reach Arts, a nonprofit group of artists and residents, last March. The building had been vacant since 2007.

Cresta said the group hasn’t moved in yet and the building needs hundreds of thousands of dollars of renovations. He said the building either needs to be renovated or disposed of.

Cresta said the town also needs to find a suitable use for the train depot building on Railroad Avenue, which it leases from the MBTA. He said it’s been unoccupied for the past 20 years and the building is deteriorating.

The former Marian Court College, also known as White Court, could soon become an Orthodox Christian monastery with a brewery and cider house on site.

Fr. Andrew Bushell, a Marblehead native and executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, a monastic institution of the monks of Mount Athos in Greece, has a purchase agreement in place with the Sisters of Mercy, the current owners of the property at 35 Littles Point Road. The school was closed in 2015, due to financial difficulties.

Cresta said on Thursday that Bushell has not closed on the property, and his deadline was by the end of December. Town officials have not been supportive of his plans for a brewery, arguing that zoning bylaws do not allow for one in the residential district where the former college is located.

Swampscott also saw a change in its garbage collector, after its former trash hauler, Hiltz Waste Disposal, informed town officials that they were stopping collection services with about a day’s notice. Officials had to scramble to find a new hauler, with a hasty procurement process leading to the hire of Republic Services. Hiltz later declared bankruptcy. Town Meeting had to allocate an additional $408,587 in November to make up the difference from the larger contract negotiated with Republic.

Artificial turf will soon be implemented at Blocksidge Field, a project that was in the discussion phase for many years. In May 2015, Town Meeting approved $1.65 million in construction costs for the turf field. An additional $300,000 was raised by the AllBlue Foundation. The $1.85 million project includes the new field, grandstands and a press box.

“We’re hoping to have it out to bid prior to the end of January and starting construction with any luck by end of April, beginning of May,” Cresta said.

The field should be ready for play by September 2017.

Cresta also highlighted the $440,000 Humphrey Street paving project from the Lynn line to the Fish House. The majority of the project has been completed, but paving also has to be finished from Millett Road to Shelton Road. Work began last May with the installation of 47 handicap ramps. Sidewalk curb extensions were designed to slow traffic, crosswalks were restriped and bike lanes were added.

Cresta said the public works department is going to be starting the rehabilitation of the sewer mains in the Stacey Brook area, with plans to put that out to bid by the end of January. Construction is expected to start in the spring.

Funds needed to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach from Stacey Brook at the Lynn-Swampscott line were allocated at Town Meeting in November.

Voters approved the $2 million needed for design and construction costs to eliminate the non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

Two separate outfalls have Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and going into the ocean.

The funds are needed to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree, that requires the town to eliminate the pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

The funds would be for the first two parts of Phase 1 of the Stacey Brook project, which will include relining sewer mains and replacing sewer infrastructure that is more than 100 years old. The project includes four phases of work, that when adjusted for inflation will cost $10.7 million over eight years.

With the help of Peter Kane, director of community development, Cresta said all of the town’s streetlights were converted to LED lights, which was completed within the past month. The project was funded through Town Meeting in 2015, with $150,000 of the $350,000 paid for by a grant.

Looking ahead, Cresta said the town will be negotiating union contracts with police, fire personnel and clerical staff. All of those contracts expire on June 30, 2017.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Clear sailing for new Swampscott harbormaster

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — The search for an interim harbormaster has hit another roadblock.

The Board of Selectmen was set to vote on an interim harbormaster at their Jan. 4 meeting, but the matter has been pushed until their Jan. 18 agenda.

“I had one candidate that I was ready to recommend to the board of selectmen and he called me this morning, and told me he had a change of heart and that he would not be accepting the position,” said Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director, on Thursday. “So, back to square one. I’m hoping to have somebody to recommend to the board of selectmen for the meeting on the 18th.”

Cresta said the yearly stipend for the harbormaster position is $7,500.

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Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell remains on paid administrative leave. He was arraigned in Lynn District Court in October on criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate.

Bithell last appeared in court for a pretrial hearing Dec. 12, which was continued until Jan. 23, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Cresta and Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said Bithell remains on administrative leave because waterfront towns are required by state law to officially have a harbormaster in place. Dreeben said he’ll be taken off leave when an interim harbormaster is selected.

Bithell is facing charges of attaching or concealing a registration plate, use of an uninsured trailer and use of an unregistered trailer. He was also issued a citation for misuse of an official number plate.

Dreeben said a permanent harbormaster will be appointed within the next year. For both the interim and permanent position, she said town officials are looking for someone who has boating experience, is responsible, fair, organized, has good interpersonal skills and is able to help people down at the waterfront.  

Bithell’s charges stem from an Aug. 15 complaint received by police about the misuse of a registration plate, assigned to a town-owned gray 2007 Load Rite utility trailer, according to a police report from Lynn District Court.

Photographs from June and August showed the same plate affixed to two different trailers, a Highlander brand pulled by Bithell’s truck and a ShoreLand’r trailer carrying a small power boat.

Bithell told police the ShoreLand’r trailer belonged to Assistant Harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche. He told police he used Aylouche’s trailer to move his boat in August without his knowledge, according to the police report.

Police located the town-owned trailer, along with an additional town-owned trailer, at Ryan Marine Services on Lincoln Avenue. Both were without plates. The owner of Ryan Marine said it was brought there inadvertently. Bithell was unaware it had been moved from the yard at the town of Swampscott water tower. The plate, which Bithell told police was located in the back of his truck, was returned to Town Hall, according to the police report.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott neighbors will have say on Jan. 5

ITEM FILE PHOTO
The former middle school on Greenwood Avenue.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents will soon have a chance to weigh in on two proposals, one for luxury apartments, the other for single family homes at the site of the former middle school on Greenwood Avenue.

Peter Kane, director of community development, will present the proposals the town received from Groom Construction and Charing Cross Realty Trust at a community forum Thursday, Jan. 5 at 7 p.m. in the Swampscott High School cafeteria.

“The town’s been focused on reuse of its vacant buildings over the past few years,” Kane said in a statement. “We’re now moving forward to reinvigorate those properties like the Machon School on Burpee Road, which will soon become affordable senior housing. Swampscott has spent a number of years discussing and pondering what to do with the various shuttered properties, but now’s the action phase to make those ideas reality.”

Groom Construction, a Salem-based company, submitted a proposal for 28 luxury apartments or condominiums and three garage outbuildings on the site.

The other developer, Charing Cross Realty Trust, based in Peabody, has proposed constructing 11 single-family homes on the site.

Groom originally won approval for a different condominium project on the site five years ago, and is in the midst of pending litigation with the town, which has to be resolved before the town is able to proceed with the sale of the property. The lawsuit stemmed from the initial zoning change approved at Town Meeting, which allowed for a multi-family unit on the parcel. That was overturned by Massachusetts Land Court after neighbors filed suit in 2014, and zoning was reverted back to single-family housing.

The zoning change approved at Town Meeting last May allows for the construction of a single structure with 28 units on the site. Potential developers had to adhere to an affordable housing component. The zoning change requires that at least 15 percent of the units be affordable, or a builder could contribute to an affordable housing trust fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.

Town officials said respondents to the RFP were encouraged to develop proposals that serve a residential purpose, adhere to a scale appropriate for the site, are consistent with the neighborhood characteristics and that comply with the zoning.

The Review Committee, made up of Gino Cresta, the acting town administrator, Kane, and two selectmen, have been analyzing the proposals and meeting with the respondents. The committee will later make its recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, who are tentatively set to vote on one of the two proposals in late January or early February.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

Saugus taking stock of housing

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS Residents can get a look at the town’s finalized housing production plan tonight at Town Hall, before it’s submitted to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

“The housing production plan public meeting will give community members a chance to see how the town hopes to increase housing options for current and future residents in a way that (responds) to the changing economic and demographic landscapes of the town and North Shore,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree.

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The plan was developed over a series of public forums to meet the need for affordable and market rate housing, and reach the state’s mandatory 10 percent affordable housing goal.

It outlines strengths and weaknesses within the town’s housing market and presents strategies for achieving a healthy mix of housing types and tenure options moving forward.

Saugus received a $20,000 state grant to develop the plan. About 7 percent, or 749 units, are affordable in town, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Chapter 40B, the state’s affordable housing law, requires 10 percent of a community’s housing be affordable. If not, developers are allowed to override local zoning and build denser developments.

Meanwhile, according to Karina Milchman, regional planner and housing specialist for the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), one third of all Saugus households are low-income.

The public meeting follows two public forums in May and October, during which residents participated in various brainstorming activities with the MAPC and contributed to the final plan.
It will require Planning Board and Board of Selectmen approval. Once adopted, it will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. and will include a short presentation followed by a question and answer period.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Lynnfield will serve new rules on alcohol 

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen approved a new set of regulations for liquor license holders at a meeting on Monday and appointed three liquor enforcement officers.

“We actually don’t have a liquor policy right now. Nothing substantial,” said Town Administrator James M. Boudreau. “This puts them on notice of what their behavior is and gives penalties.”

Police Chief David J. Breen, who was one of the appointed enforcement officers, attended the meeting and presented the board with the proposed regulation changes.

According to the new rules and regulations, any infraction may be grounds for action by the board including the modification, suspension, revocation, non-renewal or cancellation of a license.

The guidelines for action suggest that a first violation be treated with a letter of reprimand and/or suspension of the license up to three days. Liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. for 10 days may also be imposed.

The second violation is penalized by suspension of the liquor license from three to 10 days and liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. for 30 days.

Three violations are cause for suspension from 10 to 30 days with liquor closing hours of 11 p.m. to be enforced for 30 days. A fourth violation results in the revocation of the license.

Church meets state in Swampscott

Breen explained the changes as a way of letting license holders know what’s at stake.

The changes included harsher penalties for serving a minor, with three violations leading to a license revocation when the sale or service of alcohol to underage drinkers is involved.

Boudreau recalled an establishment that had its liquor license suspended for two weekends during NFL playoff season.

“It’s a big hurt. That’s how seriously this board takes underage drinking,” said Boudreau.

Board member Richard Dalton questioned the severity of the penalties and asked what would happen if a license holder with a long history of responsibility wound up before the board for an infraction.

“These are guidelines,” said Boudreau. “The board still has the right to make decisions based on individual cases. You maintain the discretion to do less or to do more.”


Leah Dearborn can be reached at ldearborn@itemlive.com.

Zoning issues brewing on Swampscott waterfront

COURTESY PHOTO
St. Paul’s Foundation’s Fr. Andrew Bushell has a vision for the Marian Court property.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Tension is brewing between town officials and Fr. Andrew Bushell over the planned business portion of his intended monastic reuse of the former Marian Court College, also known as White Court.

Bushell, a Marblehead native and executive chairman of St. Paul’s Foundation, a monastic institution of the monks of Mount Athos in Greece, a church, not a nonprofit, intends to turn Marian Court into a Orthodox Christian monastery. He has a purchase agreement in place with the Sisters of Mercy, the current owners of the property at 35 Littles Point Road. They closed the college in June 2015 because of financial difficulties, but Bushell has not closed on the property.

Bushell said his decision to complete the purchase of the Marian Court property hinges on being able to build a small monastic brewery and cider house on the site, inside what is now the Mercy Center. Plans also include establishing a warehouse in Lynn or Revere, which would be used for storage and larger deliveries.

“I would like to clarify that the only way we’re going to proceed with the purchase of the property is with a brewery,” Bushell said at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. “That’s not any doubt in our mind … It’s our understanding that we do this by right. It’s our understanding that any religious organization has the right to support itself.”

Town officials argue that zoning bylaws do not allow for a brewery in the residential district where the former college is located. The only uses allowed in that district without having to obtain a special permit are a single-family dwelling, a religious use, educational use, child care facility, agricultural use or facilities for the sale and production of dairy products from June to September, according to Peter Kane, director of community development.

Kane said a brewery is not identified as an allowed use in Swampscott, and according to the town’s zoning bylaws, if a use is not specified, then it’s not allowed. He said Bushell could argue that the brewery is for a religious use, but he would still have to go through the town’s building inspector. Depending on the building inspector’s determination, whether the brewery falls under a religious exemption or doesn’t, Bushell or the town has the right to appeal that decision, Kane said.

“Because it’s a residential district, I don’t believe that manufacturing of goods is allowed on the property,” Kane said.

Selectmen Peter Spellios and Donald Hause agreed. Hause said he doesn’t think the brewery would follow the Dover Amendment exemption, the law that exempts agricultural, religious and educational corporations from certain zoning restrictions.

“I don’t believe it’s a use that’s appropriate for the property,” Hause said.

Spellios said it was his belief that a brewery should not be in that neighborhood.

Bushell argued that the Dover Amendment would apply to the brewery. He said it’s traditional for monks to support themselves by the work of their hands. Work and prayer is their motto, he added. In Marblehead, for instance, he supports a small monastic house through the Marblehead Salt Company, which was founded when he returned to the town five years ago.

The salt company provides for the group’s basic needs and allows them to donate to the community and the larger world, he said in a previous interview. The funds are sufficient for a small house, he previously added, but the White Court property is larger and more expensive to maintain, with money also needed to support the group’s mission to help its Middle Eastern brothers.

“It’s very traditional for monastics to brew beer,” Bushell said. “We’ve been making beer for well over 1,000 years. It’s typically how we support many of our communities and also allows us to provide for charitable works.”

Bushell said he thought that a small brewery in the monastic tradition would be most suitable to repair the property, restoring it to the jewel it once was and provide for the group’s charitable works around the world.

He plans for no more than 18 full-time residents at White Court should the sale be completed. There are also plans to repurpose a room for a small chapel.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynnfield businesses seeing red over taxes

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — Several business owners spoke out against the high tax bills coming from property values at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting. The board voted to maintain a 1.184 tax rate shift, meaning residential and commercial tax classifications are set to stay close to their rates in fiscal year 2016; residential valuation rates moved from 86.21 to 86.41 percent and commercial rates went down from 11.92 to 11.28 percent.

While the tax levy itself isn’t moving much, a number of business owners complained about the increases.

Restaurateur Jeffrey Gates, one of the owners of Gaslight Lynnfield, said he received a tax bill for approximately $76,000, a larger sum than what he pays for properties in Boston.

“The town of Lynnfield is our host … but it’s caught us completely off guard,” said Gates, who wanted to know why the property was so highly assessed. “These numbers are what box stores can afford to pay.”

ALSO: Waterfront development backed up by questions

Assessing Manager Raymond E. Boly said Lynnfield splits its rate between commercial and residential taxes, making it one of the few small towns in the state to share the tax burden equally between classes.

Boly said the practice is more typical of larger communities and that the town adopted the split rate in 2004 to compensate for residential values that were rising at a faster rate than commercial properties at the time.

“We have a disagreement about value,” said Tom Desimone, a partner at WS Development, the firm that developed MarketSteet.

Desimone said the firm presented the town with an economic impact statement eight years ago that estimated $1.5 million in gross revenue for the town. He said MarketStreet is now paying the town $3.5 million in taxes.

According to statistics provided at the meeting, the average value of a retail store on Market Street went up from $190,503,900 to $206,081,600 over the past year.

“We’re providing more benefit to the town than we thought we would be able to. To some extent, I’m glad to do that,” said Desimone, who has begun an appeal process in an attempt to bring tenant bills down. “We’ll figure it all out and come to some sort of solution.”

“We’re pretty low for commercial tax rates,” said board member Christopher Barrett. “Residents also bear the burden.”

The same statistics from the meeting listed the average residential value in town for 2017 at $618,400.

Commercial tax rates in town were lower than in surrounding communities, set at $17.68 in 2016 as opposed to Wakefield’s rate of $27.03 and Peabody’s rate of $24.19.

Philip Crawford, chairman of the board, said that the money from MarketStreet is all part of one big tax levy, some of which has gone into the town operating budget. He said it was especially beneficial in refilling reserve accounts that were depleted during the years of the recession.  

Administrator search extended in Swampscott

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott Town Hall.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Residents will have to wait about a month longer than expected for a permanent town administrator.

Initially, the Board of Selectmen gave a timeline of a mid-January start date for Swampscott’s next town administrator, after they would have selected a candidate from finalists presented to them from the screening committee on Nov. 2. An offer from the board was expected in mid-November.

But Naomi Dreeben, board chairwoman, said the Town Administrator Screening Committee told her they need more time.

Don Pinkerton, chairman of the five-member screening committee, said the start date for a new administrator is potentially mid-February. He said three finalists will be recommended to selectmen by the beginning of December.

The selectmen will then be in charge of hiring one of the candidates. The person chosen, if he or she accepts the job, would have 90 days notice to give their employer.

Pinkerton said there have been more than 50 applicants. He said the committee decided to do more “due diligence” and bring people in for in-person interviews. Phone interviews were conducted before that.

“We felt it was important to get it right, so we decided to push it back and the selectmen agreed with that,” Pinkerton said. “We’ve got some excellent candidates, some really qualified people, so we just want to make sure we get the right one.”

Pinkerton and Dreeben said that the person selected would potentially be serving the town for a long time, so they felt it was important not to rush the process and be thorough.

Pinkerton said the committee is looking for someone who has a good vision for the town, good leadership skills, and a fair amount of experience with the ability to bring people together.

Dreeben added that the ideal candidate is someone who could take the initiative on the town’s priority projects and will have a lot of energy in terms of follow-through and implementation. She said the person has to be a good communicator and leader. A strong grasp on budgetary processes is also necessary and the candidate has to be able to work with the schools.

Gino Cresta, department of public works director, has been serving as the interim town administrator since mid-October, when former Town Administrator Thomas Younger left for the same job in Stoneham. Town Accountant David Castellarin, who also serves as assistant town administrator, has been in charge of the budget during the interim tenure.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott having a $2M pipe dream

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — A large portion of Monday’s special Town Meeting is expected to be devoted to discussing funds needed to clean up sewage discharging onto King’s Beach from Stacey Brook.

Town Meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Swampscott High School.

There, town officials will be asking members to vote to allocate $2 million for the purpose of funding design and construction costs to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

The funds would be used to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach at the Lynn-Swampscott line. Two separate outfalls have Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and then goes into the ocean.

Funds are needed to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree, that requires the town to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system. Last June, the town submitted its plan to the EPA to complete the first phase of construction work in 2017, according to town documents.

“I think the Stacey Brook article will get the most discussion only because it’s seeking the most appropriation,” said Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works (DPW) director.

Cresta said he expects Town Meeting members to want some explanation of the expenses of the project and appropriation needed going forward. He said that Phase 1 of the Stacey Brook project includes four phases of work, which when adjusted for inflation, will cost $10.7 million over eight years. Town Meeting members will be asked to approve $2 million every other year for the project.

The first two parts of Phase 1 of the project will include relining sewer mains and replacing sewer infrastructure that is more than 100 years old.

The DPW plans to procure a contractor for construction this winter, with work expected to begin by next spring, according to a presentation from Cresta at a recent Board of Selectmen meeting. But he said that can’t be done without the funds being approved at the special Town Meeting.

A two-thirds vote is needed to pass the appropriation, with the seven other articles on the Town Meeting warrant only requiring a majority.

Another article that might warrant discussion includes one centered around asking voters to approve $128,750 for the purpose of redesigning beach entrances to alleviate flooding.

The town was awarded a $103,000 reimbursement grant from Coastal Zone Management, which requires a 25 percent matching contribution from Swampscott. Despite the town only being responsible for $25,750 for the project, the total cost of the redesign has to be approved by Town Meeting members. Coastal Zone Management requires design completion by end of next June, according to town documents.

The Finance Committee did not recommend this article, but the selectmen did.

Selectman Peter Spellios said at a recent board meeting that he disagreed with the finance committee, and that it would be a “black mark” for Swampscott to receive the grant and then turn it down, if the appropriation was not approved. He said it would make the town less competitive for grants in the future.

Other major funds that Town Meeting members will be asked to appropriate is an additional $408,587 for trash and recyclable collections. The funds would make up the difference from the larger contract the town negotiated with their new trash hauler, Republic Services, after their former company, Hiltz Waste Disposal, abruptly ended garbage collection service on Aug. 31. Republic Services was hastily hired a day later. Hiltz has since declared bankruptcy.

With a special Town Meeting, Cresta said there could possibly be a quorum issue. To start the process on Monday, about 160 members need to show up.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus looks at pet project

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS — There’s some paws for concern after the owners of Red Dog Pet Resort & Spa had their plans temporarily halted for a proposed outdoor area on the roof where their canine guests could relieve themselves.

The Red Dog owners won approval from the Board of Selectmen earlier this year to operate a two-story shop just off Route 1 in Saugus. The resort would feature a swimming pool, three indoor play spaces and two outdoor spaces. It’s big enough to house 150 dogs and 25 cats. The resort would also feature daycare and overnight boarding services, along with grooming services and other spa services.

The owners operate five other locations, one in Boston and four in the Cincinnati area.

Eric Schneider, president of the operation, said plans were to open the resort in the spring in Saugus, but not getting immediate approval from the selectmen for the roof area would delay construction and opening by three months.

He went before the board on Wednesday for modification of the special permit the business received over the summer. He said approval of the roofing area for bathroom use would be the last piece needed to get their building permit.

Schneider proposed building eight-foot block walls on the roof that would look exactly like the existing building, with brick on the front and painted red block on the side. There would be no roof on the walls. He said dogs can jump over six-foot walls, but not eight. Ten to 15 dogs would be brought outside to relieve themselves at a time, and wouldn’t be caged but would have individual chain link fence runs.

He said the structure would be for dogs that are guests on the second floor. First-floor dogs would have their own area to go outside. The dogs would be outside for three to five minutes and at staggered times, so when the first dog is going in, the last dog in the group would be brought out. They get four potty breaks a day and their feces would be picked up afterwards and sprayed into the drain, which goes into the regular sewer system, Schneider said. Foaming and spraying chemicals kills the smell, he added.

“The idea of this is to mirror their home life while they’re at their resort,” said Alyssa Regalia, executive director. “By taking them outside into an enclosure, they can relieve themselves and go back inside to eat, sleep and play.”

The selectmen raised concerns over noise from barking and fear that the dogs could jump over the wall off the roof.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said his concern was that stormwater and rain would go onto the roof in areas that collect the elimination from animals. From a plumbing standpoint, he said the town can’t have stormwater going into the sewage system. He said the owners would need to have a plan approved by the Department of Public Works before the proposal could go forward.

Debra Panetta, board chairwoman, said she was not comfortable voting to approve the permit modification.

“The idea of putting dogs on the roof is frightening to me,” she said. “Some of these dogs have springs. They jump. That, along with the noise concerns me.”

To receive the modification, Panetta said there had to be at least four votes in favor from the five-member board. When Scott Brazis, vice-chair, also indicated that he might not vote in favor, Mark Mitchell, another board member, said that he didn’t think it was right that someone has a great idea for a business and now the selectmen would be potentially altering what they would be doing.

“This is a great opportunity for our town to have another great facility here for dogs,” Mitchell said. “It’s almost like we’re not advocating for these businesses.

If the board voted the roof area modification down, it could not be brought before them for another two years. Instead, Schneider was given an opportunity to withdraw his application, which he did. He offered the selectmen an opportunity to visit the Boston site of the business to see how a similar roof bathroom area would work, which they accepted, after approving his withdrawn application. The owners now have to reapply for the roof structure and seek approval again from the board at a later date.

If the roof bathroom area is not approved, Schneider and Regalia wouldn’t say for certain that they would be leaving town and looking for a new location. But they said it would be “disheartening.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

9th Essex likes its representation

PHOTO BY NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD
Donald Wong holds onto his granddaughter, Ava Myers, 5, before entering the room to celebrate his re-election Tuesday at Kowloon.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SAUGUS — Coming off a contentious race, state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) called for unity and healing after winning re-election.

Wong declared victory at the Kowloon Restaurant shortly before 9 p.m. even as results in the 9th Essex race continued to come in.

Wong defeated Democratic nominee Jennifer Migliore.

Wong received 12,766 votes to Migliore’s 10,541, according to unofficial results from city and town clerks from Lynn, Saugus and Wakefield.

Wong lost Ward 1, precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn, but handily won Wakefield and Saugus precincts. The Saugus Town Clerk’s office reported Wong received 6,451 votes to Migliore’s 4,790. In Wakefield, he won 4,753 to 3,656. In Lynn, Wong received 1,742 votes to Migliore’s 2,005.

Wong said Migliore called him at 9 p.m. to congratulate him and concede the race.

“It feels very good to win,” said Wong. “But now is the time to heal and bring our parties together for the good of the community. We have to look toward the future. The past is the past.”

Wong said he wanted to thank Migliore for wanting to be active in the community.

Migliore, 25, confirmed the concession and said “I am incredibly proud of the campaign we ran. We spoke with over 15,000 constituents and raised awareness about key issues. These are not the results we had hoped for, but I am confident that the conversations that we have started will benefit generations for years to come.”

Wong, 64, has held his seat since 2011. Before that, he served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He has lived in Saugus for 40 years and is a third generation business owner of Kowloon.

Wong said he wanted to thank everyone who came out to vote and supported him.

“I’m glad that the election is over now so I can put 100 percent of my attention into my district again,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus rep candidates in final faceoff

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican State Rep. Donald Wong answer questions at the Daily Item-sponsored state rep forum at Saugus Town Hall auditorium on Thursday. (Check back with the Item for a video recording of the debate).

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — At Thursday night’s debate between State Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and challenger Jennifer Migliore, the candidates faced off with just days until election day.

Supporters filled the Town Hall Auditorium, Wong supporters wearing T-shirts that read “So Wong, it’s right” and Migliore fans came equipped with cow bells for a more boisterous applause. Hosted by the Item, the forum offered candidates the opportunity to sound off on everything from experience to Wheelabrator Saugus to their views on the ballot questions and presidential candidates.

“Please consider my opponent’s background,” said Wong, who added that Migliore’s includes playing softball and being a staff member for a politician. “She has no experience working with any budget other than her own. I pay taxes. I balance budgets. I have a track record of proven leadership. I have a 100 percent voting record at the State House. I cross party lines for the best results.”

But in working with U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who she said was also new to his position at the time, Migliore said she got extensive experience helping veterans and families, like those who live in the district.

“I’m 25 years old and I’m proud of the experience that I have,” Migliore said. “I started working for a freshman congressman. We solved over 800 constituent cases. I worked for a freshman and we got an incredible amount of work done. Don’t tell me that being a freshman is a negative thing. I view it as a positive thing. We need new blood, new energy, new ideas.”

The two candidates vying for the seat Wong has held since 2011 took the opportunity to hold each other’s feet to the fire with each rebuttal.

Wong, 64, served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He has lived in Saugus for 40 years and is a third generation business owner of the Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

Migliore is a Saugus native. In her former job as a district representative for Moulton, she served as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.

When asked about what they did to try to prevent the closure of  Union Hospital, Wong said he was the first official to talk to the attorney general about saving it. He hopes to see the building used as a veterans hospital and for emergency services. Migliore said she attended Save Union Hospital meetings and worked with Sen. Thomas McGee and state representatives Dan Cahill and Brendan Crighton, all of whom have endorsed her.

Migliore said part of the reason she is running is she is not satisfied with the job Wong has done.

We need a state rep that is focused on Beacon Hill, instead of Saugus politics,” she said. “Donald Wong was heavily involved in the recall (election of the Board of Selectmen). There is clearly a divide between current Board of Selectmen and Donald Wong.”

But Wong argued that he supports all local officials in Saugus and that nothing would get done if both parties didn’t work together.

The recall was over a year-and-a-half ago,” said Wong. “We need to move on. There is an open line between my office and the town manager, I’m always available to the officials.”

Both candidates said residents’ health comes before money when asked about the financial contributions Wheelabrator Saugus makes to the town.

Wong said the most recent study found there were no adverse health effects as a result of the facility’s operations, but added that other reports have shown mixed results. He wants to look at the big picture and get to the root cause of common health problems, including plane fumes, General Electric, Wheelabrator and other pollutants.

Migliore called the number of miscarriages and residents suffering from cancer “uncanny,” adding that if she held Wong’s seat, she would have co-sponsored Rep. RoseLee Vincent’s bill opposing an expansion to the ash landfill.

“They pay less than $100,000 in taxes for a very large area,” she said. “I do not see $100,000 as making or breaking the town budget.”

Both were against the legalization of the sale and use of recreational marijuana and funding for additional charter schools. Migliore said she supports her party’s candidate for president; Wong only said he is disappointed with his choices.

The debate was moderated by Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Saugus state rep forum tonight

SAUGUS — The Daily Item will sponsor a candidates forum Thursday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall auditorium with the two state representative candidates whose names will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican state Rep. Donald Wong will answer questions asked by Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, who will serve as forum moderator. Candidates will deliver opening and closing statements.
Migliore, a Saugus native, has experience working for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. Wong is a three-term legislator and 41-year town resident who has served on Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.
Voters in the 9th Essex District including Lynn Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2 residents; Saugus Precinct 1, 2, 4-9 residents and voters living in Wakefield Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 will vote in the Nov. 8 final election.

Saugus State Rep forum Thursday

SAUGUS — The Daily Item will sponsor a candidates forum Thursday at 7 p.m. in Town Hall auditorium with the two state representative candidates whose names will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Democrat Jennifer Migliore and Republican state Rep. Donald Wong will answer questions asked by Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, who will serve as forum moderator. Candidates will deliver opening and closing statements.  

Migliore, a Saugus native, has experience working for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. Wong is a three-term legislator and 41-year town resident who has served on Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.

Voters in the 9th Essex District including Lynn Ward 1, Precincts 1 and 2 residents; Saugus Precinct 1, 2, 4-9 residents and voters living in Wakefield Precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 will vote in the Nov. 8 final election.

Lynnfield working to keep history alive

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The town of Lynnfield is placing historic restrictions on the Centre Farm property at 567 Main St. in preparation for putting the farm up for sale.

BY LEAH DEARBORN

LYNNFIELD — The Lynnfield Historical Commission wants to make sure Centre Farm retains its historic facade.

Steve Todisco, chairman of the commission, presented the Board of Selectmen with revised restrictions regarding the property on Wednesday.

When the commission voted on the revised regulations on Oct. 18, they originally asked for oversight regarding any future changes made to front and side facades of the house.

After reviewing the restrictions, however, the Massachusetts Historical Commission (MHC) wanted to take them a step further and include oversight to changes made on the rear facade as well.

“We really look forward to the possibility of a new owner,” said Todisco. “It’s just going to be a great thing to see it preserved.”

Todisco added that there’s a mural in the dining room that the town will have access to in the event that the building is sold. He said it depicts a landscape scene with characters and is so large that the individual vignettes will have to be carefully cut out and removed.

Located at 567 Main St. across from Town Common, Centre Farm was built by the Rev. Joseph Mottey in 1785 and rebuilt in 1810. It’s one of the oldest buildings in town.

The town purchased the 7,167-square-foot home for $1.4 million in 2014 to prevent it from falling into the hands of a private buyer and possibly being demolished or redeveloped.

Town Meeting voted to authorize the board to sell or lease the Centre Farm property back in April.

Philip Crawford, chairman of the board, said that because the final draft of the revised regulations has been approved, it will now go back to the MHC for review. The board can then issue a type of bidding solicitation called a request for proposal (RFP), initiating the sale process.

Town Administrator James M. Boudreau said that the property will likely be ready to go on the market by early December. He said that as of the last appraisal, the minimum bid for Centre Farm was set at $900,000.

Money talks in Swampscott

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott Town Hall.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Trash, pollution and flooding highlight a special Town Meeting, set for next month.

Town Meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Swampscott High School, which includes eight articles for members to vote on.

Voters will be asked to approve an additional $408,587 for trash and recyclable collections. The additional funds are needed in the aftermath of the town’s former trash hauler, Hiltz Waste Disposal, abruptly ending trash collection service on Aug. 31.

This led to officials quickly hiring Republic Services a day after Hiltz cut services. But Hiltz had been budgeted at a lower amount for trash and recycling collection, said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen. Hiltz has since declared bankruptcy.

“We just need to make up that difference and we need Town Meeting approval for that,” she said.

Town Meeting members will also be asked to vote to allocate $2 million for the purpose of funding design and construction costs to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system.

Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta said the funds are needed to clean up the sewage discharging into the ocean at King’s Beach from Stacey Brook at the Lynn-Swampscott line. There are two separate outfalls with Lynn and Swampscott discharging right next to each other onto the beach. Sewage is getting into the drainage pipe and then goes into the ocean.

The funds are to keep the town in compliance with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) consent decree that requires Swampscott to eliminate non-stormwater pollutants from entering the town’s drainage system. Last June, the town submitted a plan to the EPA to complete the first phase of construction work in 2017, according to town documents.

Cresta said the town plans to go out to bid by next spring, with a purpose of getting a contractor for the clean-up.

The other major funds Town Meeting members will be asked to approve is $128,750 for the purpose of alleviating flooding at Swampscott beach entrances, Cresta said.
Dreeben added that the funds would be for the redesign of beach entrances to protect the coastal area from flooding.

The town was recently awarded a $103,000 reimbursement grant from Coastal Zone Management for the project. The grant requires a 25 percent matching contribution from the town, which would make Swampscott responsible for $25,750, but Town Meeting members have to approve the total cost of redesign, according to town documents.

Coastal Zone Management requires that design be completed by the end of next June.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus rep foes trade insults

By Gayla Cawley

SAUGUS As the Nov. 8 election draws closer, state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) and challenger Jennifer Migliore, a Democrat, have been trading insults by their respective campaign’s press correspondence.

“Unlike my opponent, I am running to do a job, not to get a job,” said 64-year-old Wong in an email sent to the local media. “This first debate provided the residents of Saugus, Wakefield and Lynn with a clear choice between my ability to deliver what we need to succeed and my opponent’s lack of experience and misinformation at many levels.”

Wong’s statement was part of a correspondence where he fact checked 25-year-old Migliore, based on her remarks from their first debate in Wakefield last Thursday.

Wong, a three-term legislator and 41-year Saugus resident, is vying to remain the 9th Essex District representative. He has been endorsed by the Saugus Republican Town Committee and Saugus police unions. He has served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen.

Migliore, a Saugus native, most recently served as district representative for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.). She beat Wakefield resident Saritin Rizzuto in September to win the Democratic primary.

This week, she was endorsed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Migliore worked as an intern for Warren’s 2012 election campaign and then went on to intern in her Washington, D.C. office. The senator called Migliore “the type of fighter that we need more of on Beacon Hill.”

She also received a vote of confidence from Elizabeth Marchese, a Saugus School Committee member, who wrote that Migliore has made public education a pillar of her campaign.

On Monday, Migliore and her team campaigned with Moulton and Lynn Police Chief Kevin Coppinger, the Democrat running for Essex County Sheriff.

“After knocking on Saugus doors with her, it’s clear that people want a change at the State House,” said Moulton in a statement.

But Wong’s campaign is not impressed, fact-checking Migliore’s debate performance. He questioned her comment on the lack of infrastructure investment and transportation improvement that has come to the district, citing the Walnut Street overpass in Saugus.

According to his campaign, Wong has secured money for the repair of the Walnut Street overpass as part of $1 million in funding through the 2014 transportation bond bill. Other infrastructure improvements the campaign cited included the Saugus Main Street overpass and nearly $1 million in road and bridge repairs to Wakefield as part of the 2013 Chapter 90 funding.

Migliore and her team attacked Wong’s statement during the Wakefield debate when he “falsely claimed to have co-sponsored a bill” with state Rep. RoseLee Vincent (D-Revere), which aims to prevent the Wheelabrator ash landfill in Saugus from expanding.

“Donald Wong either knowingly misled his constituents or he doesn’t know his own record,” said Migliore in a statement. “Regardless, he inaccurately portrayed his position on Wheelabrator, one of Saugus residents’ top concerns. We deserve a leader who will stop Wheelabrator’s planned expansion and clearly Donald Wong doesn’t even have a grasp of the issue.”

Wong responded in his own campaign correspondence.

“First, I would like to address my own misstatement regarding the Wheelabrator ash landfill,” he said in a statement. “In my eagerness to respond to a question from the moderator, I incorrectly identified which piece of legislation I supported to limit an expansion of the facility. My office has taken numerous steps to ensure that the health and safety of our residents comes first, including an ongoing discussion with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a site analysis.”

The Daily Item has scheduled a 9th Essex debate on Nov. 3 at Saugus Town Hall.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Controversy developing in Saugus

The end of the Bellevue Heights project is in sight after more than 17 years with the new deadline set for June 30, 2017. (Photo by Paula Muller)

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — More than 17 years later, the Bellevue Heights project has an end date.

Developer John Mallon proposed a timeline for the remaining components of the project, with a deadline for completion of June 30, 2017. The Planning Board is willing to work with Mallon, but others are losing patience.

“Why do we have to give him until June 30?” said Scott Brazis, a member of the Board of Selectmen. “I think these people have suffered long enough. Give the guy until the middle of May. Hold his feet to the fire and get the job done.”

Brazis indicated that once the deadline passes, Mallon can be fined about $500 per day until the job is done.

“Come June 30, when we don’t have any work done up there, we’re all going to be back here again, arguing,” he said.

Original plans outlined 17 years ago included a 28-lot subdivision with single-family homes. Since then, 21 houses have been built and are occupied.

A retaining wall collapsed in 2008. Three houses were sold and moved to different lots, but the wall remains unfinished at the site, with Procopio Construction Company working to repair it.

The board previously asked Mallon to complete the project by Sept. 15. The deadline came and went, and work remains unfinished.

At the board’s Oct. 20 meeting, Mallon reported the retaining wall is 90 percent completed. Curbing has been installed on both sides of the road, but not repaired on the east side. The sidewalks are not finished and the jersey barriers have not been moved to their proper positions.

New signs with the proper spelling of Hitching Hill Road need to be installed. The road needs to be paved, nine trees are yet to be planted, and a grass strip between the sidewalk and the street needs to be installed.

To repair the wall, the construction company is drilling into the cliff and inserting 10- to 15-foot spikes into the rock. Each block locks into the row below, above, and next to it, said Peter Rossetti, chairman of the Planning Board.

“From what I understand, it’s a great engineering project,” he said.

Mallon said he would inform the panel of specific construction dates on April 1, but the board negotiated to move the update to March 1.

He will be held responsible for installing necessary fencing and having the jersey barriers in place by Nov. 17.

During the winter months, Mallon will maintain the roadway by plowing, sanding and salting.

All other work will be completed by the end of June. Should he miss any of the deadlines, a surety bond of $50,000 will be seized to finish the work. Mallon estimates it will cost about $65,000.

“We’re not opposed to the extension,” said Ferruccio Romeo, who lives on Hitching Hill Road with his wife Joanne. “This has to be the drop dead, last extension. If this goes on any longer.. It’s outrageous in our opinion. We want the project done but we want it done correctly.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Saugus rivals square off

State Rep Donald Wong. Item file photo.

By Thor Jourgensen

WAKEFIELD — State Rep. Donald Wong touted his experience as a three-term legislator Thursday night. But challenger Jennifer Migliore said she will have more access as a Democrat to “the powers that be” in the State House.

The pair answered questions posed by a Wakefield Community Access Television (WCAT) media panel for an hour in advance of the Nov. 8 election.

Wong, a Republican representing the 9th Essex District, and Migliore said they will fight to keep Union Hospital open. Migliore said owner Partners HealthCare must ensure emergency services are preserved in Lynn and Wong suggested the hospital, if it is closed in three years, could be a future veterans hospital.

Migliore said she wants state officials to reconsider action earlier this year on Wheelabrator’s request to extend the life of its landfill.

The Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act review of Wheelabrator’s proposal concluded that no further environmental review was necessary and that the proposal can be advanced to the state Department of Environmental Protection for permitting.

“People in Saugus are very concerned about the risk factor. This is an area Rep. Wong has been weak on,” Migliore said.

Wong said a state public health study concluded there are no adverse health effects from the landfill. But Wong said he favors an additional federal study.

“Wheelabrator should receive a fair and unbiased review,” Wong said.

Wong, 64, served on Saugus Town Meeting and the Board of Selectmen. He is a 41-year town resident as well as a third-generation business owner of the Kowloon Restaurant on Route 1.

He has been endorsed by the Saugus Republican Town Committee, with the committee citing his perfect voting record in the Legislature, and Saugus police unions.

Migliore, 25, is a Saugus native and Wellesley College graduate. In her former job as district representative to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, she served as a liaison to the U.S. Department of Labor.

She beat Wakefield resident Saritin Rizzuto in September to win the Democratic primary. Her endorsements include the Massachusetts chapter of the National Organization for Women, NARAL Pro Choice, Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus.

The 9th Essex District encompasses precincts 1, 2, 4-9 in Saugus; precincts 1, 2, 3 and 7 in Wakefield; and Ward 1 precincts 1 and 2 in Lynn.

Migliore said her work with Moulton and her ability, if elected, to work with fellow Democrats in the Legislature will help Lynn, Saugus and Wakefield get additional state money to push Copeland Circle road work and other Route 1 improvements forward.

“I want to create a new vision for Route 1,” she said.

But Wong said state tax money cannot be simply dedicated to transportation and other specific projects. He said he has a track record of getting state money for Saugus public safety and education projects and said Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito will join him in Saugus early next month to announce $120,000 in state money for a local water works project.

Wong described himself as a longtime town resident with local and state government experience facing an “opponent who worked nine months as a government staffer.” But Migliore said the 9th Essex District race “is about our district getting its fair share.” She criticized Wong in her closing statement.

“At the time when he should have been involved on Beacon Hill, he was too heavily involved in Saugus politics,” she said.

Both candidates said they oppose the state ballot question legalizing marijuana and will vote no on expanding charter schools in Massachusetts.

The pair took questions Thursday night from Daily Item News Editor Thor Jourgensen, Wakefield Daily Item reporter/columnist Mark Sardella and Wakefield Observer reporter Richard Tenorio. WCAT producer David Watts Jr. moderated the debate.

Thursday’s debate can be viewed on WCAT You Tube. The Daily Item (Lynn) has scheduled a 9th Essex Debate on Nov. 3 in Saugus Town Hall.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Last chance to talk housing in Saugus

Saugus Town Hall (Item file photo)

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — Next Thursday will be the final chance for residents to weigh in on a plan to fulfill the town’s housing needs.

Saugus is developing a housing production plan to meet the need for affordable and market rate housing, and reach the state’s mandatory 10 percent affordable housing goal.

Krista Leahy, town planner, said the goal is also to provide a greater variety of housing to a community primarily comprised of single detached one-family homes.

The initiative kicked off in February. Residents and officials are working with the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to draft a plan that will require Planning Board and Board of Selectmen approval. Once adopted, it will be submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Saugus received a $20,000 state grant to design the plan.

“The MAPC compiled all of the notes and the feedback from the meeting in June,” Leahy said. “They took soundbites of ideas into a living document. This will be the last chance to respond to the proposals.”

At the first forum, Karina Milchman, regional planner and housing specialist for the MAPC, said providing 10 percent affordable housing is important to serve the needs of the town’s residents.

It also gives officials more control when developers propose construction of multi-family housing in town. If a town doesn’t meet the requirement, developers can override local zoning and build denser developments, she said.

As of June, there were 10,754 housing units in Saugus. Only 749, or 7 percent, were considered affordable by the state. Leahy said the number has remained nearly unchanged.

At the first forum, residents brainstormed what they thought Saugus’ housing goal should be over the next five years, and what barriers they might face to achieve it.

The MAPC will provide feedback on the ideas residents drafted and make its own recommendations, Leahy said.

“This will be the final one,” she said. “Because of that, this forum is more important than the last one. Everyone will get their final say and have their voices heard. They’ll get feedback on their recommendations that MAPC has created.”

Leahy said it will be the final opportunity to be a part of creating paperwork that developers will look to for the construction of housing and development in the future.

Stephen Cole, planning and development director, added that the forum will serve a dual purpose. It will also be educational for residents who want to learn more about the housing needs, regulations and what affordable housing really means.

“The housing production plan will play an important part of healthy economic growth within the town of Saugus,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “It will give the town more input on potential developments, help identify the housing needs of the community, and it will help create more of a variety of new housing, such as apartments, condos and single- and double-bedroom units. With more options for housing, the town will, in turn, attract a variety of age ranges to live, work, have a family and retire in Saugus.”

He added that the housing production plan is part of the administration’s initiative to have a strategic plan based on the needs of the residents.

The meeting will be held at Saugus Town Hall on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Sink or swim for Swampscott harbormaster

Swampscott Town Hall. Item file photo.

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell will be arraigned on criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate.

Bithell is scheduled to appear in Lynn District Court on Oct. 28. A clerk magistrate’s hearing was held on Sept. 19, where it was determined that criminal charges should be filed against Bithell.

During the hearing, Clerk-Magistrate Jane Brady Stirgwolt found probable cause to proceed with three of the four charges — attaching a registration plate to assigned vehicle (trailer), use of an uninsured trailer and use of an unregistered trailer, according to Swampscott Police Chief Ronald Madigan.

Bithell’s attorney, Neil Rossman, has said previously that the complaint is regarding a boat trailer, but on Monday declined to comment on the pending arraignment.

On Aug. 15, Madigan received a complaint regarding the misuse of a Town of Swampscott registration trailer plate, according to a police report obtained at Lynn District Court. Police said photographs from different dates showed a blue registration trailer plate was attached to two different trailers. The registration trailer plate is assigned to a 2007 Load Rite gray utility trailer owned by the town, according to court documents.

A photograph taken on June 6 shows the blue registration plate attached to a trailer, connected with a vehicle owned by Bithell. Police said the photograph showed that the registration trailer plate was attached to a trailer other than its assigned utility trailer. The picture was taken at the boat ramp at the Fish House and showed the registration plate attached to a Highlander brand trailer, according to court documents.

The Highlander trailer was located at Fisherman’s Beach between the Fish House and Martin’s Way, without a registration plate, on the beach next to the wall that abuts Bithell’s Puritan Road residence, according to court documents.

The photographs taken on Aug. 7 at Martin’s Way, a beach where the public has a right of access on Puritan Road, shows the registration trailer plate attached to another trailer, a ShoreLand’r trailer. Police said the trailer was also holding a small white power boat with a center console, court documents show.

Police further learned that Load Rite utility trailer was at Ryan Marine in Marblehead. An officer was told by the owner at Ryan Marine that two trailers owned by the town were brought there and one of the trailers, the Load Rite utility trailer, was mistakenly taken there. Police didn’t see registration plates attached to either trailer, according to court documents.  

An officer later spoke with Bithell at the Fish House as he disembarked from his boat — a white power boat with a center console. Bithell was asked where the blue registration trailer plate was and he told police that it was in the back of his truck. Bithell was asked where the trailer was located that should have the registration plate attached to it and he told the officer that it was stored at the yard of the town water tower, according to court documents.

Police said Bithell didn’t know that the trailer had been moved and taken to Ryan Marine. Bithell also told police that he used the registration trailer plate on his Highlander trailer to move his private boat, which he sometimes uses during the course of his Harbormaster duties.

An officer asked Bithell who owns the ShoreLand’r trailer, which photos showed the registration plate attached to, and was told that it belonged to Assistant Harbormaster Mounzer Aylouche. He told police that he used Aylouche’s trailer to move his boat on Aug. 7 and stated that the assistant harbormaster was unaware that he had borrowed his trailer, according to court documents.

Police said Bithell turned over the blue registration trailer plate and it was returned to Town Hall.

Swampscott officials have placed Bithell on administrative leave and are actively looking for an interim harbormaster. Interim Town Administrator Gino Cresta said no one has been chosen for the position and hopes to discuss the matter with the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus hires a new planner

Stephen Cole

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — Stephen Cole has been hired as the town’s new planning and development director.

Cole has experience working for the city of Springfield, where he filled several roles, including operations manager of development services, chief of staff for the mayor and project manager for the financial division.

Most recently he worked as the director of economic development for the city of Hartford, Conn.

As the head of the newly-created Planning and Development Department, Cole will tackle land use and planning; energy, housing and open space projects and initiatives; infrastructure needs assessments; and conduct efforts to attract economic development.

He will oversee Krista Leahy, who assumed the role of town planner at the end of August.

“I am pleased to welcome Stephen to his new role as director of planning and development for the town of Saugus,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree. “Stephen has a wealth of experience and qualifications, and I am confident that he will bring these assets to the job.”

Crabtree created the department in place of the economic development department. Duties of the town’s former economic development officer, Bob Luongo (who left the department in the spring), were divided into two roles to better serve Saugus’ needs, Crabtree said in a statement.

“I am extremely excited to be given this great opportunity to have a positive impact on the town of Saugus,” Cole said in a statement. “I am confident that my skills and professional development will serve me well as the director of planning and development, and I look forward to getting to know the community and getting to work.”

Cole received a Master of Arts degree in public policy from Trinity College and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Westfield State University. He has experience working  in the planning and development field and in municipal government.

“Thank you to the Board of Selectmen, Finance Committee and Town Meeting for their support of this new department, which will greatly benefit the taxpayers by promoting economic growth and increasing annual revenue for the town,” said Crabtree.

Safety is elementary at new Saugus playground

Grace Moon, swinging, and Chloe Crabtree play at Veterans Memorial Park in Saugus. (Item photo by Owen O’Rourke)

By Bridget Turcotte

 

SAUGUS — The town is stepping up safety features at Veterans Memorial Park as the second of three new playgrounds prepares to open.

Veterans Park on Hurd Avenue was unveiled in September and has since drawn crowds of children of all ages.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said he’s happy with the success of the park and the number of children using the facility. To combat destruction of the equipment and increase safety, he plans to add a few new features.

“It’s new and there’s a lot of excitement with it,” he said. “It’s drawing a lot of people there. We’re trying to do what we can to upgrade and protect it.”

Within the next few weeks, additional lighting and high-definition, multi-lense cameras will be added. Fencing and a slide are being repaired, and a sign will be posted that spells out the park’s rules.

Turnout is even greater than anticipated, Crabtree said. Police are stopping by more frequently and reminding children that the playground closes at dark.

“I’m really thrilled that the town and elected officials, the Board of Selectmen, the Finance Committee, Town Meeting members were all able to come together and help support and fund these initiatives,” he said. “It’s a great investment into our community and the residents of Saugus.”

At a cost of about $700,000, the playground was revamped with a larger play area with wheelchair-accessible playground equipment. The basketball court was redesigned, resurfaced and features new hoops. A track surrounding the court was added. Swings, which the old park lacked, are a welcomed addition.

Jill Lauziere brings her children to the park every day. Her oldest son, Charlie, goes to the Veterans Memorial Elementary School. She estimated more than 100 park-goers use the equipment each afternoon.

“A lot of kids come from the Lynnhurst (Elementary School) and Waybright (Elementary School),” she said. “It’s really geared for kids up to age 12 but those kids who are maybe 11 to 14 are in that in-between age who are not old enough to go to the mall or something on their own are here, standing on the baby swings and being rough. It’s a beautiful park. I would hate to see it get destroyed.”

Desiree Moon, a parent, said most of the problems stem from older children playing on a playground intended for younger children.

“We love the new park,” she said. “Almost the whole (Veterans) school comes out to play here. My thing is, be respectful of your town’s things. Once it’s broken, it’s broken.”

Bristow Street Park is undergoing a $1 million renovation that will include new equipment, fences, a basketball court and parking.

Crabtree said there will be a bathroom, storage shed, concession stand and 10-f0ot ball-wall for lacrosse practice. He expects it to be ready for a ribbon-cutting ceremony within the next month.

The tennis courts at the Belmonte Middle School are being upgraded at a cost of about $300,000. When completed, they will comply with regulations for holding tournaments.

Improvement projects at the three parks total a $2 million investment.

“We want to protect our taxpayers’ investment,” Crabtree said. “We hope that parents that are there will step up and if they see things that shouldn’t be happening, report them.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Liquor license slices Saugus board

(Item file photo)

By Bridget Turcotte

SAUGUS — A Board of Selectmen vote to hold in abeyance until Nov. 9 revocation of the liquor license issued to Sully C’s Bar & Grill represents a new chapter in the ongoing saga over Sully’s and the beginning of a game of musical chairs involving Route 1 restaurants.

Located on Route 1 North, Sully C’s became a battleground between business owner Elaine Byrne and property owner Evos Properties LLC and Evos’ manager Suleyman Celimli. The two sides each contested who was responsible for repairing damage caused by a fire for more than a year.

Town inspectors declared the 168 Broadway building, which also housed Boston Market, uninhabitable. Town fire officials anticipated both businesses would be closed for just a few weeks and the damage was estimated to be about $100,000.

Board members voted to revoke the license in July, but gave Byrne until last month to try to sell it.

Byrne attended the September meeting with news of a purchase and sale agreement with buyer Frank Perry, who plans to open a pizzeria called Sebastiana’s. The panel asked for documents about the sale, but as of last Wednesday, they still had not received the information, including the business’ location.

Byrne said Perry will purchase the current site of Victor’s Italian Cuisine at 1539 Broadway. Victor’s is moving to 1639 Broadway, where Maddy’s Lounge and Grill used to be.

Selectmen tempered their vote last Wednesday by expressing reservations with Selectman Scott Brazis saying, “I am not comfortable with the transfer of the liquor license. There are too many variables in my eyes.”

“Why is everything done so last minute?” said Selectman Mark Mitchell. “Me, personally, I think I would be proactive with getting things in early, that way if there were things that weren’t complete, we could follow up.”

Selectmen voted 3-2 to have Perry and Byrne return for a public hearing on Nov. 9, with Brazis and Mark Mitchell opposed.

Selectman Jeff Cicolini said  he was unhappy with the timing of the application’s submission, but pushed to give Perry more time. He argued that revoking the license would mean the board would be starting from scratch with putting it to use.

“We have a partially submitted application,” he said. “It’s not like this is an anomaly. It happens more often than not. The ball is definitely moving. They have already paid the deposit and passed the CORI check. Victor’s is a current, viable building. I will not support us going through with a revocation tonight.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Town spending facing scrutiny in Swampscott

Swampscott Town Hall (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Members of the Harbor and Waterfront Advisory Committee are questioning how town funds were spent for two waterfront projects.

In 2011, Town Meeting members approved $95,000 for a harbor dredging project, but the project halted after a study identified eelgrass in the harbor and estimated a $3 million to $4 million price tag to remove the vegetation.

“In order to dredge the harbor, the eelgrass would have had to be removed,” town resident Mary Ellen Fletcher said.

A member of the Harbor and Waterfront Advisory Committee and Finance Committee, Fletcher outlined for the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday the dredging project’s financial history. With the goal of allowing boats to be moored without getting caught in the sand, former Town Administrator Andrew Maylor requested money from the Seaport Council for the project early in 2011 and was granted $475,000.

The state money was to account for 75 percent of the project, with Swampscott responsible for the other 25 percent. But the project never moved past the study stage with the total cost whittled down to $94,180,

Fletcher and Harbor and Waterfront Advisory Committee members Glenn Kessler and Milton Fistel showed the selectmen invoices Wednesday to buttress their argument that the town should have only been responsible for 25 percent, or $23,545.

The three committee members pointed a proverbial finger at outgoing Town Administrator Thomas Younger in detailing how Younger sent a letter to the Seaport Council looking into funds for a breakwater in 2014.

The three laid out a financial argument for their claim that the town ultimately paid more than it was required to pay in connection with the breakwater study.

Designed to be built from large boulders and intended to protect the harbor from southeast and southwest waves, the breakwater was recommended for design last February by the Harbor Committee.

But, like the dredging study, the breakwater plan was halted in the spring when the committee voted not to proceed with either dredging or breakwater plans until spending concerns were resolved.

Kessler said he subsequently began assembling financial documentation related to the projects. Using the documents, Kessler, Fletcher and Fistel outlined how the state approved funding $115,738 for the breakwater study, or the equivalent of an 80 percent state share of the project costs with the town responsible for the other 20 percent.

But the three said the study’s price tag was ultimately only $61,863, meaning the town’s share should have been $12,372.

The study showed that a breakwater project would cost about $7 million, but if stones could be acquired from the Boston Harbor dredging project, the cost could be driven down to around $5 million.

Fletcher said the full $95,000 approved at Town Meeting for the dredging project was used by the town to pay for part of the cost of the two studies, which totaled $156,043. She said that means the town overpaid by $59,082.

Town Accountant Dave Castellarin could not be reached on Wednesday to verify that the town spent all of the funds approved at Town Meeting.

Fletcher questioned why funds approved at Town Meeting for a dredging study would be partly used on one for a breakwater, a separate project.

“What Tom Younger needed to do was say we need to go back to Town Meeting,” she said. “Dredging doesn’t work and I need money for a breakwater … Town Meeting could have said we’re going to study a breakwater.”

Younger declined to comment on the committee members’ account Thursday, except to say, “We’re currently reviewing it.” He is slated to start his new job as town of Stoneham administrator on Oct. 17.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, confined her comments on the waterfront spending concerns to saying:

“This is a very unusual situation and I haven’t seen another one like this ever. So, it’s certainly unique and we will certainly be looking into it.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Nahant ramping up wharf work for winter

The boat ramp of Tudor Wharf, in Nahant, is due for a $640,000 overhaul. Item photo by Owen O’Rourke.

By Bridget Turcotte

NAHANT — Nahant’s Tudor Wharf is ramping up for a winter update.

The project involves demolishing the existing concrete boat ramp and constructing a new one with the same general footprint and slope. Foundation stones on the existing seawall will be repaired. Both are dated and deteriorating, said Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren.

The Conservation Commission approved the environmental permit for the project last week. Chelgren said the next step is for it to be put out to bid.

The overall cost of the project is estimated to be $640,000. Earlier this year, the town received a state Seaport Economic Grant that will cover $410,000. The remaining cost was allocated at the last Town Meeting and will come from Community Preservation funds.
Work is expected to begin in December and will take four to six weeks to complete, depending on the weather.

“I would like to have it all done by mid-March,” Chelgren said. “On the first of April, fishermen start coming back and putting their boats in the water.”

He described the wharf as the heart of the Nahant community and the town’s sea industry.

“It’s a location where the commercial fishermen come out of, especially lobstermen,” he said. “We have boating clubs centered out of there, the Dory Club.”

The Nahant Sailing program offers boating classics ranging from basics to racing courses, for both children and adults. The wharf doubles as a center for community events like the annual Grand Pram Race. Throughout the summer months, it’s a popular spot for locals to gather, jump off the dock and swim.

Chelgren said the wharf has been in need of the planned improvements for years. At tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting, he will give an update on the project and its timeline.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Street smart in Swampscott

Cathy Cordero crosses the new crosswalk on Humphrey Street, in Swampscott, with her bike. (Photo by Paula Muller)

By Gayla Cawley

SWAMPSCOTT — Swampscott is poised to join nearby Lynn and Salem in adopting a complete streets policy aimed at making roadways safe for all forms of travel.

“The idea is making sure your roadways are usable for everybody,” said Peter Kane, director of community development.

A complete street provides safe and accessible options for all travel modes, including walking, biking, transit and vehicles, for people of all ages and abilities.

The town is asking for public feedback on its complete streets policy, available on its website, before the Board of Selectmen votes to adopt or deny the measure on Oct. 19.

The public comment period ends on Oct. 12. If approved, the policy will then have to be passed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

If the policy is approved by MassDOT, Swampscott will seek funding from the department to develop a prioritization plan. The funding pays for a consultant to help the town with its complete streets prioritization plan, which Kane said shouldn’t take more than three months to develop. The consultant will be chosen through a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) process.

Once the plan is completed, the town will solicit more grant funding from MassDOT to implement it. Implementation will include construction costs such as sidewalk improvements, handicap ramps, incorporating bike lanes and widening roads, Kane said.

Kane said the town has already implemented complete streets practices during the Humphrey Street redesign project, which included paving from the Lynn line to the Fish House. Before paving began, 47 handicap ramps were installed. The revamp also included putting in sidewalk extensions to help with pedestrian crossing and will continue with bicycle lanes and bike racks.

Sidewalk improvements and extensions were also completed by Stanley Elementary School.

Kane said the idea for complete streets was born out of the master plan. He said residents told officials during the planning process that the town needed to focus on better bicycle improvements. There are no bike lanes in town and very few bike racks, with none around the commercial corridor area. The Disability Commission then brought up the need for handicap accessibility for sidewalk crossing.

“By doing these improvements, we’re trying to encourage people to bike,” Kane said. “It may be able to minimize the amount of people driving by Humphrey Street.”

One of those bicyclists is Cathy Cordero who was riding on Humphrey Street Sunday afternoon. The Swampscott resident cycles three to four times a week, sometimes taking the bike path to Marblehead. On other occasions, she rides from Swampscott to Nahant, stopping at Dunkin Donuts for a bottle of water, before turning around. She runs into problems riding in Swampscott, dodging tree roots and cracks. But Cordero said Humphrey Street is the best area for biking in town.

“Most of the sidewalks in Swampscott aren’t rideable,” Cordero said.

As she headed to Mission on the Bay Sunday to meet a friend, Kimberlee Bowman of Swampscott, said Humphrey Street used to be a “free-for-all” and is still dangerous.

Bowman runs every morning and would like to see more stop signs installed. She has spotted fast drivers on residential streets where kids are present.

Lynn residents Richard and Maureen Murray walk their dog on Humphrey Street and Richard Murray said adopting a complete streets policy is worth trying. Maureen Murray added that motorists don’t stop for people at crosswalks and that she’s afraid to ride her bike from Lynn to Humphrey Street. She has to drive there instead.

“It’s not safe anywhere to cross the street,” Maureen Murray said. “They (the streets) are better in Swampscott than they are in Lynn.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Nahant Planning Board floats Coast Guard ideas

ITEM FILE PHOTO

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

NAHANT — A dozen town-owned homes that were built for World War II soldiers could be demolished to make way for single-family homes and a condominium complex.

If approved, the proposed Bass Point Overlay District on Castle Road, Goddard Drive and Trimountain Road would allow multi-family construction.

Nahant has owned the property at Castle and Gardner roads since the 1950s. Today, they are leased to tenants.

At a hearing Tuesday evening, residents asked questions and expressed concerns about the proposed development on Bass Point.

The Planning Board discussed an amendment to establish a new district that would allow for the redevelopment of the former military housing units.

“What does the timeline look like? As a tenant, I’m asking when I am moving,” said Lauren Barton, who rents one of the U.S. Coast Guard housing units.

The 12 existing homes date back to World War II when they were used to house soldiers who worked at a nearby bunker.

Town Administrator Jeff Chelgren said the parcels exist on one large lot.

A special Town Meeting will be held in September to ask residents to approve the change, which will allow eight single-family homes and a 20-unit condominium building to be built on the lot.

Chairman Richard Snyder said 25 percent of the units would be set aside for income-eligible families.

Attorney Mark Bobrowski, special town real estate counsel, said the 25 percent would translate to two single-family homes and four condos. The interior of the units would be modest, but the exterior would be the same as the market rate units.

“The key is to walk down the street and not be able to say that’s an affordable unit and that’s a market rate unit,” he said.

The project was approved by Town Meeting in 2005 and a developer was chosen, but the real estate market crashed and brought plans for the former military property to a halt. The Coast Guard Housing Committee developed a proposal last year, but only received one bid.

The purpose of establishing the district is to make the property more attractive to potential developers, Chelgren said.

Residents wanted to know if there would be any handicap accessible units, if it’s possible to use environmentally-friendly materials and if the single family units could be prevented from becoming condos.

Bobrowski said many of the details would be worked once a developer is chosen for the site.

Some residents opposed the idea of a multi-family building coming to Bass Point.

“The town could make money selling the individual houses,” said Elizabeth Kelley, a Bay View Avenue resident. “We don’t need this. This is just an overcrowding of Bass Point.”

Others argued that the project had already been vetted through several Coast Guard Housing Committee meetings.

Pan Manadee, a committee member, said the changes being discussed are intended to make the property more marketable so the town has more developers to choose from.

“This is not a blank slate,” Manadee said. “This has been voted on by Town Meeting and approved.”

Snyder said the board will meet again Aug. 17 to make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Fisherman’s Beach heats up while Phillips cools down

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Beach fires are a go for Fisherman’s Beach but a no for Phillips Beach.

The Conservation Commission reluctantly green-lighted cooking fires for Fisherman’s Beach, after deciding the area did not fall under its jurisdiction, due to the lack of vegetation that would be affected.

But the commission found that the conservation area at Palmer Pond and dune vegetation would be altered at Phillips Beach, leading them to require town officials to file a notice for fires there.

“It’s our responsibility to protect that vegetation,” said Tom Ruskin, acting chairman of the commission. “We are only concerned about that vegetation going up in smoke.”

Unless the fires are monitored by safety officials on Phillips Beach at all times, the request would likely be denied, Ruskin said.

“You can go forward with your plan on Fisherman’s Beach only,” Ruskin said. “There are to be no fires on Phillips Beach.”

Last month, the Board of Selectmen approved beach fire pits on Phillips and Fisherman’s Beach after a two-year ban. But conservation commission approval was also needed. Concrete fire pits were installed at Phillips Beach, but had to be removed, due to Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations that say structures are banned on the beach.

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said he would notify the selectmen about the commission’s decision and they would have to decide whether to file the notice to pursue fires on Phillips Beach.

With summer dwindling down, the additional notice requested by the commission makes potential fires on Phillips this year unlikely, Younger said. The selectmen have planned to review any beach fires in September to decide if the policy will continue next summer.

The selectmen have approved allowing two permits for beach cooking fires on Fisherman’s Beach, but Younger said the board would probably increase that figure with the ban on Phillips, where four permits would have been allowed.

Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen can issue permits for Fisherman’s starting today. A $50 deposit and a $20 non-refundable fee will be required. Once permission is granted, a placard will be given for someone to mark their fire. The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town and are only allowed between 6 and 11 p.m.

Residents were allowed only limited comment at the hearing and were cut off if repetitive remarks were made to the previous commission meeting earlier this month.

Amy Friend Roberts, a Swampscott resident, was concerned about ash, specifically with the fire residue dumped into the trash cans. She opposed open fires.

Emily Pierro, a Swampscott resident in favor of the fires, said she frequents Phillips Beach quite often and was disappointed with the decision. She said those who have fires on Phillips do care about the vegetation.

“We’re very responsible,” Pierro said. “You’re not allowing our town to establish the policy.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Marblehead will roll out its big gun

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This cannon, which was built in 1803 and captured by the crew of the USS Marblehead at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is going to be moved from its home at 45 Elm St. in Marblehead so that more tourists can see it.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — The Glover’s Marblehead Regiment may be a Revolutionary War reenactment group, but they happen to own an 1803 Spanish Cannon.

The only problem is the artifact captured by Marblehead mariners in the Battle of Guantanamo Bay during the Spanish-American War is not on display for people to see.

The cannon, which was made in Spain, has been stored at the Gun House on Elm Street since it was rolled down into Salem Harbor in the 1970s.

“It’s really a gorgeous piece and it should be seen,” said Robert Erbetta, sailmaster of the Glover’s Regiment. “We had it tucked away at the Gun House.”

At the time of its vandalism, the cannon had been displayed at the Waterside Cemetery at the Spanish American War veterans’ cemetery. It was recovered and refurbished by the Marblehead Artillery Company for the town’s 1976 bicentennial celebration. The artillery company eventually disbanded and transferred ownership of the cannon to the Glover’s Regiment.

The cannon has been temporarily displayed outside of the Gun House, but fastened, for the recent July 4 holiday, but the street is not as visible to tourists as other sections of town.

The regiment has proposed to town officials four places for the cannon to be displayed, including its original Waterside Cemetery location, along with Abbot Hall near the flagpole, Fort Sewall, where the regiment is based, and Old Burial Hill, a historic cemetery. The move must be approved by the Board of Selectmen.

Town Administrator John McGinn said the selectmen decided at last week’s meeting to have him examine the options and report back to them with his recommendation. He said there are a number of variables to consider, including weather protection and where it’s historically appropriate.

The cannon somehow made its way to Marblehead after the Spanish American War after it was stolen at Guantanamo Bay by members of the USS Marblehead.

“Folklore has it being liberated out of Cuba and transported by some members of Marblehead’s Naval Militia volunteers subsequent to their return from the war,” said Seamus Daly, captain of the Glover’s Regiment.

Erbetta said the cannon is either bronze or brass and would be weather-resistant if placed outside, but would have to be covered with a clear shrink wrap in the winter. Initially the cannon was not rifled, a feature added in the mid-19th century, and was most likely taken off a garrison or ship’s carriage when it was liberated during the war. It now sits on a field carriage, which is more typical of the Revolutionary War era, he said.

Anthony Silva, whose Elm Street home is next to the Gun House, has taken issue with the cannon being displayed outside.

“It’s a beautiful piece, but it blocks our legal right of way,” he said. “It blocks our access to Elm Street.”

All properties in town need access to a public way, and his has two deeded right of ways, including his driveway and front entrance, he said. The cannon is on the front entrance, Silva said.

Erbetta said keeping the cannon at the Gun House is possible, with some space on the front lawn. But it’s not preferable because of the lack of visibility.

It’s not appropriate for its current outdoor location at the Gun House because of the right of way issue, McGinn added.

“Certainly if it stays at the Gun House, it has to be moved,” McGinn said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus swings into action on playgrounds

ITEM PHOTO BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE
Selectman Mark Mitchell, Selectman Jeff Cicolini, Town Manager Scott Crabtree and Selectman Jennifer D’Eon looking at plans for the new playground at Veterans Memorial Elementary School. 

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The town is improving the quality of life for $2 million this summer.

The community gathered for a groundbreaking at the Veterans Memorial Elementary School that marked the start of improvement projects at three parks.

This fall, students will enjoy a larger play area with wheelchair-accessible playground equipment. The basketball court will be redesigned, resurfaced and feature new hoops. A track surrounding the court will be added.

Swings, which the park lacked, are a new addition and sprinklers in the field will eliminate the dry, scratchy grass students have complained about for years, said Tracey Ragucci, principal.

Most importantly, parents are pleased that the park is expected to be much safer than before, she added.

Ally D’Eon, 13, broke her arm playing on the monkey bars when she was a student at the school. The injury required surgery and left her with a scar on her forearm that’s about four inches in length.

“The rubber ground was all torn up and there were holes in it,” she said. “It wasn’t very safe. I fell off into one of the holes.”

Her mother, Selectman Jennifer D’Eon, said Wednesday that she became involved in town politics when she was told the park would never be updated.

Ally D’Eon said she is excited for the younger children to have swings to play on, because she remembers wishing the playground had them.

“I’m glad they’re doing it so the kids will have a new playground to play on where they will be safer,” she said.

Jennifer Leonard has two daughters who attend the school. Her daughter, Abigail, 9, is in a wheelchair and looks forward to playing on the playground with her sister, Corinne, 6.

Before Saugus renovated the park with handicap accessibility, Leonard drove to the Mayor Thomas M. Menino Park at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in Boston. The park was constructed in 2013 following the Boston Marathon bombings.

“With this wheelchair accessibility, there will be places she will be able to get on with other kids,” Leonard said. “It’s a big plus. Corinne is going into the first grade. She’ll be able to play with her sister after school and on the weekends, and we won’t have to go all the way to Spaulding to do it.”

Donna Federico has three children at the school, but rarely used the park before it was demolished. She said the playground was too small and large crowds of kids made the experience very chaotic.

The Veterans park project is estimated to cost about $700,000, according to Scott Crabtree, town manager.

The tennis courts at the Belmonte Middle School are also being upgraded at a cost of $300,000. When completed, they will comply with regulations for holding tournaments.

Bristow Street Park will undergo a $1 million renovation that will include new equipment, fences, basketball court and parking.

Construction began at the Belmonte Middle School tennis courts and Veterans School playground earlier this week. Both projects are scheduled to be completed by October and the Bristow Street Park project is expected to be completed shortly after.

Debra Panetta, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said it’s a priority to have modern parks and playgrounds for families to enjoy. She’s especially excited for the town’s children, she added.

Crabtree noted that the town has not made quality of life investments in a very long time.

“I’m not sure we’ve made these significant of strides in my lifetime,” he said. “This is an excellent time for the community. I’m happy to be in a position, as the town manager, to push these initiatives.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

 

Swampscott leads the way towards 100 percent renewable energy

Last year, Swampscott built on its commitment to clean energy by entering into a municipal electricity aggregation program, estimated to save more than 45,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The 12-month contract offers residents three options:

Standard, 100 percent renewables with 5 percent new wind, Greener, 100 percent renewables with 20 percent new wind, or Basic, meets Massachusetts Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard.

Communities like Swampscott are leading the way towards a 100 percent renewable energy future. In the coming months, as state leaders grapple with decisions about where Massachusetts’ energy should come from, we hope they will follow the example of municipalities statewide and prioritize clean, local, renewable sources of power.

The costs of clean energy sources are rapidly dropping. Today, a typical solar installation costs only 23 percent of what it did in 2009.

Solar power could provide twice as much electricity as Massachusetts uses, and offshore wind projects could handle the state’s electricity demand eleven-fold.

What’s more, new technologies are enabling us to dramatically reduce our use of energy in our homes and offices. Even something as basic as switching to Light-Emitting Diode (LED) light bulbs can reduce lighting energy consumption by up to 75 percent.

There’s no question that increasing renewable energy will bring many benefits to Massachusetts. The state has already experienced the effects of a changing climate, from increasing storm frequency to rising sea levels. We must invest in clean energy sources to reduce our carbon emissions and avoid the impacts of global warming.

What’s more, energy efficiency and renewable energy projects can be a smart way for everyone to save money. For example, Swampscott will convert its streetlights to LEDs in later this year. Besides consuming much less energy, LEDs also provide brighter, longer lasting light than their traditional counterparts with reduced maintenance costs.

In Swampscott, officials have already made significant progress towards the goal of 100 percent renewable energy. Back in 2007, the Board of Selectmen signed an energy resolution that set the goal of reducing municipal emissions by 20 percent by 2020. A number of forward-thinking officials championed several key clean energy programs to reach this goal. They installed solar panels on the town’s middle and high school buildings, which generate over 450 kilowatts of clean electricity. This is the equivalent to taking 1,138 cars off the road. They also adopted a new policy for buying municipal vehicles with higher fuel-efficiency standards. The new standards tightened restrictions on fuel efficiency, vehicle size, and town fleet size.

Swampscott has also improved energy efficiency. By reducing our total energy demands, the road to 100 percent renewables becomes a much shorter one. Swampscott’s Big Blue Energy Initiative promotes free building audits for residents and businesses through Mass Save to see where energy is being wasted. The Town also contracted Johnson Controls to retrofit town buildings with updated heating systems, lighting controls, and weatherization systems. Last year, Swampscott also received a $225,000 grant from the state for converting streetlights to LED bulbs.

Studies have shown that with current technology, we can get virtually all of the energy that we need from clean, renewable sources like solar and wind.

Yet even with this technology increasingly more available, state leaders are considering steps that could delay the transition to clean energy and deepen our dependence on fossil fuels. Earlier this year, the state cut the value of a key solar program, making it harder for many families to switch to solar power. And state officials are considering proposals to expand fossil fuel pipelines.

Now is the time for bold action to repower Massachusetts with clean energy.

State leaders should say no to gas pipelines, and yes to renewable, local alternatives.

In particular, the state should restore the full value of net metering credits for community and low-income solar projects, to ensure that everyone who wants to switch to solar has the opportunity to do so. And leaders should make ambitious commitments to offshore wind and energy efficiency.

Finally, Massachusetts should commit to a goal of getting 100 percent of its energy from clean, renewable sources.

For years, communities like Swampscott have led the way towards 100 percent renewable energy. Now, it’s time for state leaders to follow their example.

 

Signed,

 

Ben Hellerstein, Environment Massachusetts

Mac McReynolds, Environment Massachusetts

Peter Kane, Swampscott Director of Community Development

Another round in donut debate

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Neighbors are making noise about Kane’s Donuts.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — Neighbors are making noise about Kane’s Donuts.

Since its expansion earlier this year, John Pizzi, a Dudley Street abutter to the donut shop, is among a handful of residents who say they are concerned about public safety hazards caused by delivery trucks in the early morning.

But Paul Delios, president of Kane’s Donuts, dismissed the allegations, saying they have been operating smoothly at the location for more than 60 years.

Kane’s opened in Saugus in 1955. A second location was launched in Boston’s Financial District last year. Each donut is made at the Saugus location on the same day it’s sold.

“Kane’s is the greatest donut in the world,” Pizzi said. “We know that. But sometimes you get too big for your location. You have to do something at that point. It is affecting a lot of people.”

Pizzi said the shop’s loading dock is not long enough, and the early morning trucks are too noisy. He told the Board of Selectmen in April that it violates a five-minute idling law and blocks the line of vision for vehicles.

Last spring, Pizzi made similar complaints about the noise coming from the shop. About 20 noise complaint citations were issued to the shop by police. But they were dismissed in Lynn District Court.

Delios said the Boston store picks up from 30 to 60 dozen donuts daily. He added that the shop is a supplier to about 60 other cafes, schools and organizations.

“We have been delivering donuts to different entities for the last 30-plus years,” he said. “We, Kane’s Donuts, do not have a vehicle. The other shop in Boston, a separate entity, has a vehicle that comes and picks up. They pick up products like any other customer picks up products.”

He added that the pickups do not generate any more noise than other customers, who have been coming in the early morning hours for years.

“The notion that we’ve overgrown our location is totally false and inaccurate,” said Delios. “This idea that we were a mom and pop business, we were never a mom and pop business. We are a business that makes products. It’s a manufacturing facility.”

Selectman Jeff Cicolini said his biggest concern is for the large number of children living in the neighborhood who ride bicycles. His fear is that the truck idling on the side of the road will lead to accidents.

“If a kid is riding on a bicycle going on Lincoln, down Dudley, they literally have to drive into the street,” he said. “I am not comfortable with trucks parking on that side street. Some kid is going to get hurt, and it’s going to be on our conscious because we’ve heard about it several times.”

Still, Delios said he has invested $250,000 into repairing the sidewalk and other infrastructure around the store.

“I’ve addressed every safety concern possible,” he said. “Every safety concern the town has ever asked me to help out with. Mr. Pizzi won’t be happy until that donut shop is shut down.”

One neighbor, who asked not to be named because she feared the dispute could get ugly, said her driveway is blocked by customer vehicles every day.

“I can attest to Mr. Pizzi’s concerns and complaints,” she said in an email. “He is not exaggerating, nor is he fabricating when he complains about the high level of noise and continuous disturbances. These issues are not few and far between. “

Selectman Jennifer D’Eon said other neighbors have not contacted her with complaints.

“I went down myself at 4 a.m. in the winter to listen,” D’Eon said. “The only noise and trucks I saw were customers. I heard a truck idling, it was a customer. I heard road traffic, but it was Lincoln Avenue traffic, not related to Kane’s.”

D’Eon added that Pizzi was sincere when he went before the board and said she believes he cares about the neighborhood. Her concern is whether the board has the authority to address the problems.

“Safety questions go to the police,” she said. “Garbage questions to the Board of Health, structure questions to the building inspector.”

But Selectman Mark Mitchell said he has received emails from six or seven neighbors with similar complaints. He said the panel isn’t doing enough.

“I don’t live in that neighborhood and I’m frustrated,” Mitchell said. “It’s obvious to me that they’ve changed the use of their business. They’re obviously supplying to their other store. To me, I just don’t feel like we’re doing enough for that neighborhood.”

Mitchell added that sending Pizzi to different boards isn’t the answer. There has to be a better way the owner can work with their neighbors to do the right thing, he added.

Chairwoman Debra Panetta agreed to look into Pizzi’s concerns.

“We haven’t done anything other than what a bakery does,” Delios said. “By nature, it’s a manufacturing facility. That’s what a bakery does.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Fired up in Swampscott

FILE PHOTO
One of the Swampscott fire pits

BY LEAH DEARBORN

SWAMPSCOTT — It looks like barbecues will be allowed on the town’s beaches after all.

At its Thursday night meeting, the Conservation Commission said it wants to allow beach fires on a trial basis until Labor Day, but they need a request from the fire department, which will be coming within days.

Acting Chairman Thomas Ruskin said the commission will implement a permit process on a temporary basis to gather more data about its effect on Fisherman’s Beach and Phillip’s Beach.  

Last month, the Board of Selectmen approved the beach fire pits after a two-year ban. But the board wasn’t aware at the time that Conservation Commission approval was also needed.

Thursday night’s meeting of the commission was to determine if a review by the panel would be necessary before the pits could be installed.

Four concrete fire pits were recently built at Fisherman’s Beach and Phillip’s Beach. But they had to be removed in accordance with Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection regulations that ban beach structures.

Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen said that when fires are allowed, there will be four sites at Phillip’s and two at Fisherman’s.

They would be open within a designated area of the beach and monitored on a permit basis. To receive a permit, people would have to come to the police station and pay a $50 deposit which would be refunded upon the return of the placard.

If fire burners don’t have the permit displayed by their fire, public safety officials would instruct them to douse the flames and be on their way, said Breen.  

He said that fires on beaches were banned in the past because of the amount of debris left behind on beaches, including both rubbish and fire remains. He wanted to reinstate a permit process because people were having fires on the beach despite the ban.

“Youth are concealing where they have their fires, going up into the dunes,” said Breen. “It’s a matter of trying to bring some order to this chaos.”

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said that there has been a history of allowing beach fires and the current permit process is meant to add structure to the process.

A number of residents opposed the fires with environmental concerns regarding leftover ash and enforcement of the blazes.

Swampscott resident Amy Friend Roberts said she was concerned about enforcement and feared more bonfires despite regulations.

“Where’s this ash actually going?” she said. “If everyone was responsible and it was truly a cooking fire, it wouldn’t need five hours of burning.”

Breen said that no bonfires will be allowed on beaches and that fires would be limited to 30 inches in diameter, with a maximum height of 24 inches.

Younger responded to resident complaints by saying that the town has purchased a beach cleaning rig and that the Department of Public Works is committed to sending summer help staff to make a more aggressive cleanup.

Ruskin said that in regards to fires on beaches, the commission is only concerned with burned wood that’s going back into the water with the tide, and specifically on Phillip’s Beach, the conservation of vegetation.

Saugus follows its Purple Hearts

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — A portion of the Northern Strand Community Trail will be dedicated as a Purple Heart Community Trail to honor veterans.

Last spring, Saugus was designated a Purple Heart Community by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. More than a dozen Purple Heart recipients live in Saugus, said Pedro Brito, veteran service officer for Saugus, Melrose and Wakefield.

“To me, personally, the sign is a sign,” said Brito. “It’s great to be designated, but it’s the feeling in the community that’s the brains of the whole thing. It’s about having recognition for these individuals.”

Most of the recipients are Korean and Vietnam War veterans, while others served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the president to those wounded or killed while serving in the military.

More than 85 cities and towns statewide have received the designation. Each community finds its own way to recognize the honor. Some raise a Purple Heart flag, update signs to include the awards symbol or designate roads in recognition.

The Northern Strand Community Trail, also known as the Bike to the Sea Trail, is a 10-mile path that connects Lynn, Revere, Saugus, Everett and Malden, along the former Boston & Maine Railroad.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the Board of Selectmen approved Brito’s request for signs to be hung on a section of the trail between Adams Avenue and School Street. He also requested the 12-by-18-inch signs at five town entrances.

“It’s a great tribute to the community and our values and our commitment to honor our soldiers and the families that have sacrificed,” said Town Manager Scott Crabtree.

Debra Panetta, chairwoman, said she is proud that Saugus has received the designation and was pleased with Brito’s plans.

The signs along the trail will be dedicated during a ceremony on Aug. 7, when designated communities observe Purple Heart Day. The dedication will begin at 1 p.m. Brito said he will have a Purple Heart recipient living in town speak about its significance.

“The ceremony itself is so that people know that there are people here who have gone overseas, who have been wounded in defense of their country,” he said. “It’s something to bring the community together and show a little more appreciation to those people who have gone that extra mile.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Scouting a new use in Swampscott

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Mark Shilo, Cubmaster for Pack 55, climbs up the side of an abandoned Girl Scout hut in Jackson Park to have a look at the condition of the roof. He is proposing renovating the hut for scout use.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Boys are one step closer to using the shuttered Girl Scout hut in Jackson Park for scouting activities.

Cubmaster Mark Shilo said Pack 55 Cub Scouts and Troop 53 Boy Scouts are planning to reuse the vacant dwelling for den meetings, cookouts, camping skills and an outdoor classroom. The 75-year-old building has been empty since 2007.

Last week, the Board of Selectmen approved the scouts’ use of the hut if the building inspector says it safe, said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Laura Spathanas, vice-chairwoman of the board.

Shilo said it lacks running water, electricity and bathroom facilities. He doesn’t envision electricity in the future, but plans to use lanterns and sustainable renewable power. Before the front door was boarded up, he said the cub scouts used it for about five years for similar purposes. No one could recall the last time it was used by the Girl Scouts. He said the rustic building is suited for boy scout activities.

“We’d just like to be able to use it again,” Shilo said.

If the building passes inspection, Shilo said the scouts would clean and perhaps paint it, he added.

Gino Cresta, Department of Public Works director, said the hut is a shell of a building, with four stone walls and a gravel floor. He hasn’t been inside since 2007, but said the interior would mirror the outside.

Cresta said the hut wouldn’t need much work, and if it passes inspection, should be available for use within “a couple of weeks.”

“I think it’s a great idea,” Cresta said.

One issue the scouts may face is parking. There’s none around the hut. Some options are parking on Foster Road or at Swampscott High School, Cresta said.

“It will be a useful, good thing for the community,” Shilo said. “This would be a good way to open up some more space here that would be pretty much for us. We wouldn’t need to fight other groups for it.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Marblehead piers into the future

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Marblehead resident Michael Baizen pulls his boat onto the beach next to the town’s newest pier, William Pattison Landing.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

MARBLEHEAD — It took more than a decade, but William Pattison Landing, the town’s newest pier, is finally open.

“The running joke is it took longer to build this pier than it took to build the Panama Canal,” said Webb Russell, Marblehead Harbormaster.

The project, previously dubbed Stramski Pier, was originally named for the family that owned the surrounding park before the town acquired it.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen approved a request from the Harbors and Waters Board to rename the pier after William Pattison, one of its former members.

Pattison, a long-time member of the Harbors and Waters Board, was passionate in his endeavor of this long project, but unfortunately he passed away in 2010 and did not get to see the project completed, Russell wrote in a letter to the Selectmen.

The weekend marked the opening of the $370,000 pier, at Stramski Way and West Shore Drive. Dedication is set for August, when all the work is completed. Russell said there’s some “fine tuning” that needs to be done.

The new pier includes a 240-foot wooden walkway, which extends to two docks in Salem Harbor. Initially, the walkway was to be 200 feet, but a 40 foot extension was later needed, Russell said.

Another delay was due to a former neighbor who fought the project for five years and the permitting process took “forever,” he said.

One permit required was from the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers, which couldn’t be issued until the completion of a $12.5 million sewer pipe replacement, which connects the Stramski area underneath the harbor to South Essex Sewerage District’s treatment facilities in Salem. That project was completed by the South Essex Sewerage District, Town Administrator John McGinn said. The project was needed because an existing pipe needed to be replaced, he added.

The pier provides access to Salem Harbor from West Shore Drive, where boaters can dock their boats for 30 minutes at either 40-foot float to pick up or drop off passengers, Russell said. Having the docks open to the public after nearly 13 years is a relief, he added.

McGinn echoed those comments.

“Everybody’s excited,” he said. “There’s a lot of excitement about getting that additional access to the harbor.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

State douses Swampscott fire-pit plan

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
One of the fire pits at Phillips Beach that will have to be removed.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — If beach barbecues are green-lighted by the Conservation Commission, they won’t be limited to fire pits.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations say the structures are banned on the beach, according to Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen.

The pits had already been installed at Phillips Beach and will be removed, said Gino Cresta, Department of Public Works director.

Instead, the fires would be open, dug into the sand, with a maximum of four at a time at Phillips Beach and two at Fisherman’s Beach. Updated regulations, approved by the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday, say that the fires must be located 50 feet from beach grass, vegetation, fences or buildings, 100 feet from any lifeguard stand or another designated area determined by the fire department.

“I think proceeding with fires just dug into the sand at any location brings up new challenges that have to be met by all parties,” Breen said.

The fires were approved by the board last month, but the town has been asked to seek approval from the commission at its July 14 meeting.

The panel could seek further action from the town on the fires, which could cause further delay, according to Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

“For all intensive purposes, there would be no fires allowed on the beach this summer,” she said.

The cooking fires are a loophole in the MassDEP regulations, which limit burning from Jan. 15 to May 1. Outdoor cooking is allowed year-round and is not subject to open burning limits, according to state law.

Residents who want to enjoy a cooking fire will need a permit from the fire department. Previously, only a $50 deposit was required. Once permission is granted, a placard will be given to mark their fire. If they leave a clean area after their event, the deposit will be returned. With the new rules, a $20 non-refundable fee will be required in addition to the deposit to account for less containment of the fires and a higher possibility that the DPW will need to have an active clean-up of the area, Breen said.

The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town. Only six permits can be issued per day, matching the number of open fires allowed.

New rules also dictate that the fires cannot be covered with sand, but must be extinguished by water. Only clean wood will be allowed.

Breen said proper thought and personal responsibility should be taken by residents who want to obtain permits for the fires. If people take personal responsibility to take as much debris and fire residue off the beach after extinguishment, than the program will be a success. If they leave the beaches a mess by leaving behind large, unburned pieces of charcoal, then it will not be a success.

He suggested having the fires halfway between the half and low tide mark, which gives people three hours before the tide reaches the fire to wash away the residue. But if that fire is put too close, the water could catch the fire before it’s extinguished, which would result in pieces of wood floating in the ocean and would be “upsetting to some people.”

“We have to balance the cleanliness of the beach with the desire of the community to have fires,” Breen said.

He also anticipates significant resistance to the potential fires. Residents have voiced concerns over the health-related issues the fires could cause and some felt the blazes could not be properly regulated. Breen said people have been having illegal fires, with most of those occurring on Phillips Beach. Cooking fires have not been permitted on the beaches for two years, and he suspects people are restarting the blazes after being told to stop from the fire and police departments.

Selectman Peter Spellios said that the board was unprepared to deal with the issue of beach fires. He said there shouldn’t be so much discussion around one topic.

“We can’t be doing this again,” Spellios said. “It’s really disappointing.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Saugus plans to fill a hole

ITEM FILE PHOTO

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Saugus Quarry could be transformed into the town’s newest commercial development with a mix of retail, office and housing.

The Board of Selectmen backed a plan on Wednesday to fill the 60-acre site at 1831 Broadway that is owned by Aggregate Industries.

Town Manager Scott Crabtree said the town is seeking a better use for the property that is mostly located in Saugus with a portion in Melrose.

The town’s goal is to attract a sustainable development that will generate cash to pay for town services, according to Crabtree.

He expressed confidence that the deal will signal the beginning of a successful partnership between Saugus and Aggregate Industries.

Aggregate has produced construction materials on the site since the 1930s. Today, it’s home to two asphalt plants, a ready mix concrete plant, quarrying and crushing activities, said Erik Muller, general manager.

For more than a decade, Aggregate has been working with the town’s Aggregate Post-Closure Committee to develop a plan to reclaim the quarry.

The project, which is anticipated to commence in August, would involve reusing 46 acres over the next 15 years. It will be completed in three phases.

The site will be filled using dredged materials, blasted rock and soil. Asphalt, brick and concrete may also be considered, said Marc Richards, vice-president of Tighe & Bond.  

Materials will be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Saugus Board of Health.

Lisa Young, director of land and environment, said Aggregate will pay for a project coordinator, selected by the town, for the first year of reclamation and master plan activity. It will also provide funding for studies, including an engineering peer review and testing of materials.

A toll will be charged to Aggregate for each truck associated with the project. All of the trucks will travel on Route 60 and Route 1, and will remain covered, Young said.

In addition to a master plan, a stormwater pollution plan will be provided as part of the agreement.

Aggregate will next apply for a fill permit with the Board of Health.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Swampscott puts a damper on fire

ITEM FILE PHOTO

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Don’t light those beach fires just yet.

The cooking fires for Phillips and Fisherman’s beaches, approved last week by the Board of Selectmen, will have to wait until the Conservation Commission gives the green light.

Installation of the fire pits was scheduled for this week by  Gino Cresta, Department of Public Works director. But that’s been delayed until mid-July after the commission holds a public hearing.

Tonia Bandrowicz, conservation commission member, said the town has been asked to seek approval to place the fire pits on the beach from the panel at its July 14th meeting.

Town Planner Peter Kane said beach fires fall under the wetlands protection act, and might require a review by the commission before the pits can be installed.

“Right now, the town is trying to determine if that review is needed,” Kane said.

The cooking fires are a loophole in the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations, which limits burning from Jan. 15 to May 1. Outdoor cooking is allowed year-round and is not subject to open burning limits, according to state law.

If and when the fire pits are installed, residents who want to enjoy a beach fire will need a permit from the Swampscott Fire Prevention Bureau and pay a $50 deposit. Once permission is granted, a placard will be given to mark their fire. If they leave a clean area after their event, the deposit will be returned. The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town. Only six permits can be issued per day, matching the number of fire pits.

Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen said the department has been issuing beach cooking permits for about a decade. But two years ago, he said there were so many fires and people leaving debris behind that the department just decided to stop them.

Breen said that protocol remains in place until the conservation commission makes its decision.

“We’re not able to issue any permits and we’re enforcing no fires on the beach,” he said.

Breen said people are lighting fires illegally already and it’s stirring up the opponents. Residents have voiced concerns over the fire pits detracting from the natural beauty of the beaches and the health-related issues the blazes could cause.

Breen said the illegal fires are mostly on Phillips Beach and people are having them without permits. He said the department is going to have to step up enforcement and stop all fires. The fire and police departments have been patrolling Phillips and Fisherman’s beaches randomly attempting to intercept the fires and telling people to put them out. But there is simply not enough staff to watch the beaches all night long, he added.

“Those patrols leave and I suspect people are lighting up fires again,” Breen said. “By having a process, hopefully, it will bring some order to the chaos going on.”

Cresta could not be reached for comment.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Lynnfield’s short-term rental denial appealed

ITEM FILE PHOTO

BY ADAM SWIFT

LYNNFIELD — The owner of a mansion that was the site of a fatal shooting appealed the town’s decision to deny short-term rentals at the house.

The Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to hear the case in August.

Following the death of 33-year-old Keivan Heath of Randolph at a house party on May 29, the building inspector filed a cease and desist order against Alex Styller, owner of 8 Needham Road. Styller offered the $3.3-million house for lease for $1,400 per night on California-based Airbnb Inc. and other online rental sites. The Airbnb listing is still active.

Short-term rentals are not allowed under Lynnfield’s zoning bylaws, according to Philip Crawford, chairman of the Board of Selectmen.

But in the appeal received by the town on Thursday, Styller’s attorney said the rental of a home on a short-term basis does not constitute the operation of a hotel or lodging house as those terms are used in the zoning bylaws.

The appeal also revealed some additional details about the night that Heath was killed. The shooting is still under investigation by the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

“Styller rented the residence for a small college reunion,” said attorney Lester E. Riordan III of Concord. “The tenant violated Styller’s lease conditions by inviting guests over and above Styller’s maximum limit of 15 guests. As a result, Styller has discontinued leasing his premises for the purpose of parties and events and has adjusted his Airbnb accordingly.”

The house is now only leased for short-term vacation rentals, according to Riordan.

But Selectman Richard Dalton said he’s talked to a number of neighbors who are upset by the shooting and nervous that the house will be rented out again.

“There is a history of parties, and large ones,” said Dalton. “The neighbors thought it was friends and families and did not think that he was renting the house out. We are going to do everything we can to make sure this does not happen again.”

Swampscott knows what it needs for housing

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Swampscott Town Hall.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — More affordable and senior housing are needed in Swampscott and a plan has been developed to jump start construction.

The Housing Production Plan was approved last week by the Planning Board and Board of Selectmen. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC), the region’s planning agency, helped the town develop it. The state Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) will have final review of the proposal.

Town Planner Peter Kane said the purpose of the plan is to help the town identify what its housing needs are and what they will be in the future. Senior residents are projected to be the largest population increase over the next decade, he added. Swampscott’s stock of affordable housing is less than 4 percent, well under the threshold established by the state.

Having a housing production plan will allow for local review of a Chapter 40B housing project. The state’s controversial anti-snob zoning housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to build affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are defined as affordable.

“If you want to be able to control those 40B projects, you have to have a housing production plan if you don’t have your 10 percent,” Kane said.

Swampscott apartments are expensive and most households are cost-burdened, according to Ralph Willmer, MAPC’s planner. Market rents range from $1,071 for a studio to $2,500 for a three-bedroom unit. While the median income is $92,258, about 41 percent of households spend more than 30 percent of its income on housing.

While the plan is pending state review, Kane said some of the goals and strategies have already been implemented. Two affordable housing projects were passed at Town Meeting last month. The former Machon Elementary School will be reused as an affordable senior housing project and a zoning change will allow for 28 affordable housing units at the former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue.

With the zoning change, at least 15 percent of the units must be affordable. A second option would be to allow a builder to contribute to an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which would be used to pay for affordable housing elsewhere in town.

Kane said the affordable housing trust fund was a strategy identified while the housing production plan was being developed. The fund was also approved at Town Meeting.

Another strategy outlined in the plan is potentially adopting the Community Preservation Act (CPA) to support affordable housing, Kane said. The CPA, which must be approved by voters, allows municipalities to create a fund for open space, historic preservation and affordable housing. The funds are raised through a surcharge of no more than three percent of the real estate tax bill.

The Machon and Greenwood Avenue projects will allow the town to show positive growth in affordable housing, Kane said. Towns are required to show the state on an annual basis how they are progressing towards the 10 percent affordable housing goal, he added.

“We won’t hit our 10 percent but we’ll at least start moving closer towards it,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Swampscott brings fire to water

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Steve Alex, a DPW worker, looks at the catch basins that are going to be used for fire pits on the beach in Swampscott.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Beach goers who want to barbeque can get cooking as early as this weekend.

Following a two year ban, the Board of Selectmen approved the concept last week. Four concrete fire pits will be placed at Phillips Beach and two at Fisherman’s Beach. Burning will be limited between the hours of 6 and 11 p.m.

Town Administrator Thomas Younger said fires haven’t been allowed on the beach for the past two years. But officials listened to residents who wanted the fires back. Phillips and Fisherman’s are the only two beaches where there have been fires, leading them to be chosen for the pits, he added.

“The feeling was it brings friends and family together to utilize the beach for evening activity,” Younger said.

DPW Director Gino Cresta said the 3-foot in diameter and 3-foot deep concrete pits will be installed by Friday to allow fires to begin this weekend. The $1,200 pits will be buried two feet in the ground.

On Phillips Beach, the structures will be behind Palmer Pond between the high tide mark and the grass. At Fisherman’s Beach, they will probably be placed in front of the walls and antique cannon.

The cooking fires are a loophole in Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) regulations, which limits open burning from January 15 to May 1. Outdoor cooking is allowed year-round and is not subject to open burning limits, according to state law.

Residents who want to enjoy a beach fire will need a permit from the Swampscott Fire Prevention Bureau and pay a $50 deposit. Once permission is granted, a placard will be given to mark their fire. If they leave a clean area after their event, the deposit will be returned. The fire must be attended to at all times by an adult who lives in town.

Swampscott Fire Chief Kevin Breen said the department has been issuing beach cooking permits for about a decade. Two years ago, he said there were so many fires and people were leaving debris behind, that the department just decided to stop them. For the past two seasons, anyone that had fires were told to put them out and leave the beach.

Breen said this summer’s fires will be a trial. If they become a nuisance, the fire department will shut them down again. Only six permits can be issued per day, matching the number of fire pits.

“We expect that demand will frequently outstrip the supply,” Breen said. “We just ask people to be patient and work with us.”

Regulating or extinguishing the fires will be a judgment call by shift commanders, who will make a determination whether there’s an excessive amount of smoke being produced, he added.

“I foresee that there will be some wrinkles,” he said. “I’m optimistic that we can work around the problems.”

Amy Friend Roberts, a Swampscott resident, opposes beach fires. She said the pits will be an eyesore on Phillips Beach. Fires will be an issue for people with health-related issues. She can’t enjoy her property when there is an outdoor fire burning near her house, she added.

“For me, I can’t breathe,” Roberts said. “It’s a problem.”

The selectmen will be reviewing how well the beach fires went in September to see if the policy will continue next summer.

But others favor the idea.

Emily Pierro said the small cooking fire rules can be enforced. She expressed confidence in the police and fire departments and residents.

“We have to give it a try,” she said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley