neighbors

Wayne Alarm: Security tips renters should know

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

Renters are just as likely to have burglary, a fire, and any other form of danger that any homeowner can experience as well. Renting a home can be an entirely different experience, however, since it all depends on the landlord. There is nothing to worry about, there are still options on securing your apartment!

  1. As most common entrances for burglary are through windows and back doors, it’s important to ensure they are closed at all time. If your door doesn’t have a deadbolt, and your landlord won’t provide one, see if you can install one yourself, or even a chain lock. If a deadbolt is installed, consider asking the landlord to replace it, provide them with a spare key if necessary.
  2. Strike plates, the metal plate on your door frame, are often found old and worn out in rental homes. This means it is not as secure as it once was. Instead, try replacing the screws with longer ones to secure it or replace it with a more secure plate altogether.

When living on the first floor of a building, windows should be your main priority. You want to always make sure all of your windows lock.

  1. Most importantly, however, don’t make it easier for thieves to hide.  Avoid having tall plants or shrubbery near your windows and use a rod on the tracks of a sliding window or sliding a glass door. Since these don’t require much maintenance or work to do in a rental, making it perfect for renters.
  2. Avoid placing your most valuable items near your windows. You don’t necessarily have to hide your valuables, but don’t place big screen TVs and such by the windows as it can intrigue thieves to take it.

Most importantly, make sure you’re aware of your neighbors and get to know them. Not only can they help in case of any emergency, but can also share any privacy concern that they might have. It also helps to keep a line of communication between your landlord and yourself, so you can feel comfortable in bringing any security concerns.

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Gerard Dwan: an appreciation

COURTESY PHOTO
Gerard Dwan died on April 3.

By KATHY MONTEJUNAS

The Goldfish Pond community suffered a great loss this year. Gerard Dwan, the founder of the Goldfish Pond Association, died on April 3. Gerard, a carpenter and builder, was born on Prince Edward Island and came to Lynn in 1959, where he established a life of devotion to his family, church, and community.

His Goldfish Pond neighbors and friends benefited from his many skills, passions, and unselfish spirit. In 1970, a group of neighbors gathered together, elected Gerard as president, and worked at trying to restore the pond and park to its former beauty. Their initial efforts faded, but Gerard was not deterred. In 1980 he persisted once again and founded the Goldfish Pond Association, still an active neighborhood group.

Gerard led the community to campaign on a host of neighborhood and citywide concerns. We attacked crime problems by working with former Ward 3 City Councilor Dick Coppinger. Gerard helped lead a volunteer effort to repair the crumbling walls around the pond. He helped mobilize people to clean the park and pond of trash, repaired benches, and painted over graffiti.

Gerard worked with Priscilla Gately and together they established gardens on the island in the center of the heart-shaped pond and surrounding traffic islands. The Association received city Community Development money to purchase fountains.

Goldfish Pond became and has remained a sparkling gem in the city thanks in part to Gerard’s leadership.

Today, the Association continues the work started by Gerard nearly 40 years ago. He was a role model for one and all. His displayed a limitless imagination and the persistence to accomplish his dreams. There was no problem he couldn’t solve, and there was no obstacle that would defeat him. He was always the first person out early morning working on the island and the last to leave. Gerard was charismatic and charming. He reached out to everyone and invited everyone to become part of the neighborhood. His unselfish spirit helped create camaraderie among a widely diverse group of neighbors.  

That spirit lives on. Forty years later the Goldfish Pond Association is still a vital organization that plants the gardens on the island, maintains the surrounding area, raises funds to continue its efforts, and addresses problems as they arise. The beautiful area and the combined spirit of the neighbors are a remarkable legacy that Gerard has left to Lynn.

The Goldfish Pond Association will honor Gerard Dwan’s accomplishments on Saturday, June 10, at 12:30 at the park. The public is invited to attend the service.  


Kathy Montejunas is a Lynn resident and Goldfish Pond Association member.

 

Wayne Alarm: Questions to ask your landlord

SAFETY TIP OF THE DAY

SPONSORED BY WAYNE ALARM AND HONEYWELL.

There are often important questions that you should be asking that you could forget about. Develop a checklist and take it with you to ensure that everything is how you want it. Below are some important safety questions that you should be asking before you move in.

Are The Appliances Working Properly?

It is extremely frustrating when you move into a new apartment to just realize that important appliances aren’t working the way they should. When checking out a home or apartment make sure that the burner, refrigerator and water tanks work.

Are Draperies, Blinds Or Curtains Included?

Windows treatments aren’t always included when you move into a new place. Sometimes they are and other times they are not. Be sure to check because you don’t want strangers looking in your home and seeing all your valuables.

Have The Locks Been Updated?

You want to be sure that nobody else has a key to your home. Ask your landlord if the locks have been changed before you move in.

How Are The Surrounding Apartments?

Getting some insight about who your close neighbors will be can make a difference. If you can find this information out, ask about children, pets, activities, what your neighbors do for a living, and more. This is especially the case if you live in an apartment complex as you will be interacting with these people more.

How’s The Lighting?

Ask your landlord about lighting but we also advise you to check out the complex at night. Proper lighting can make a big difference.

Do you have a fire extinguisher?

Make sure that your apartment comes with a fire extinguisher. If it doesn’t have one then consider buying one in the case of an emergency.

Is there currently a security system at your new place? Security systems not only provide safety and security for you and your family, but also saves about 10-15% on your home insurance.  Today they are much more than just security systems. You can control your lights, thermostat, video cameras, and more all thru your Wayne Alarm System. If you don’t have one, call us today at 781-595-0000 or email sales@waynealarm.com

Asking simple but extremely important questions such as these can make a big difference. When you are moving into a new place you more than ever want to know that you’re safe.

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Swampscott gives green light to Greenwood

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town officials have signed a purchase and sale agreement with Groom Construction for the redevelopment of the former Swampscott Middle School on Greenwood Avenue, which included a stipulation to dismiss the longstanding lawsuit the company had against the town.

Last month, the Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a proposal from Salem-based Groom Construction, which had submitted two concepts.

The Board of Selectmen entered into a purchase and sale agreement with the company for the construction of a 28-unit apartment or condominium project, which the board accepted as the primary concept, and adhered to the zoning approved at Town Meeting last year. In lieu of not offering any affordable housing, Groom would contribute $150,000 to the town’s affordable housing trust, officials said.

“I’m happy that we’ve been able to negotiate an agreement and we’ll be able to move forward on this chapter of our really long history with this building,” said Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen.

The company can switch to a 60-unit Chapter 40B affordable housing project, with 25 percent of the apartments or condominiums allocated as affordable, which the board approved as an alternative, if there is litigation from the neighbors for the primary concept, officials said.

Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said part of the purchase and sale agreement was contingent on having the lawsuit dismissed that the company had against the town. According to a Salem Superior Court document, the lawsuit has been dismissed “with prejudice, without costs and with each party waiving all rights of appeal.”

“I think that really resolves a potential risk to the town and any time we can avoid a potential lawsuit and situation that was a financial risk to the town, that’s a good thing,” Fitzgerald said.

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

The litigation with Groom, which originally won approval for a 41-unit condominium project on the site in 2012, had to be settled before the town could proceed with the sale of the property.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said the purchase price for the property is $1.2 million, with the company responsible for costs to abate and demolish the entire structure.

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He said the company would be credited for those costs up to $1.2 million, which would offset the purchase price, but Groom has to have documentation for whatever is spent on abatement and demolition. He said the company has previously estimated those costs to be $1.3 million, which could technically make the purchase price zero dollars.

Kane said the purchase and sale agreement allows for the buyer to go through the permitting process before they close on the property. He said the permitting process can take up to six months.

Once that is complete, Kane said the company and town can close on the sale of the property, and then Groom can sign off on the land development agreement attached to the purchase and sale agreement, which puts the buyer in the position to develop the property in the way agreed to with the town.

Officials estimate the project will generate at least $325,000 annually in real estate tax revenue.

Selectman Peter Spellios has said the Chapter 40B alternative project would give the town protection against a potential spot zoning lawsuit from neighbors, as it is exempt from zoning, and therefore, harder to appeal. The proposal from Groom approved by the Selectmen last month was the company’s response to the town’s most recent Request for Proposals (RFP) for the project.

In January, the board decided to act upon the advice of Town Counsel and reissue the RFP with both options — conforming to Town Meeting zoning and a Chapter 40B project — when the Selectmen had been slated to approve or deny a proposal from Groom to convert the middle school into 28 luxury apartments or condominiums.

Officials said at the time that Town Counsel made the recommendation because neighbors had been clear they were again intending to bring litigation against the town. Neighbors were concerned that a 28-unit structure would be out of character with the existing neighborhood.

Kane said at this point the town has not received any notice of a lawsuit.

Tom Groom, owner of the company, could not be reached for comment.


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

 

Swampscott voters to decide rail-trail fate

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a plan for the Swampscott rail trail.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Town Meeting members approved allocating funds allowing plans for a proposed rail trail to move forward last week, but a group of residents opposing the trail fought the vote and appear to have forced a special election.

Abutters to the proposed trail, who have been vocal in their opposition, and other residents, spearheaded a citizen’s petition, seeking to force the question brought before and approved at Town Meeting, to be placed on a ballot.

At Town Meeting by a 210-56 vote, members approved allocating $850,000 for the design and engineering of the trail location within the National Grid corridor, as well as the legal fees and costs for acquisition of easement rights.

After the citizen’s petition garnered nearly 900 certified signatures, voters will likely be asked to allocate the funds during a town-wide election, with a date yet to be determined, according to Town Clerk Susan Duplin.

Officials have said $240,000 of the funds would be used to hire professionals for design and engineering costs. About $610,000 would be for acquisition of easement rights, where the town would work with the property owners (National Grid and/or other parties) to secure the rights. This may be done through eminent domain, or by donation/gift of the land.

The funds would not be for construction of the trail, which would be financed through donations, grants, and private funds, officials said.

Officials have said National Grid pays property taxes for the 11 parcels that make up the utility corridor, but doesn’t have clear title on all of them. Through a title process, numerous owners have been identified, which could include abutters.

The two-plus mile, 10-foot wide trail would run from the Swampscott Train Station to the Marblehead line at Seaview Avenue, connecting with the Marblehead rail trail, which also links to trails in Salem.

Paul Dwyer, a Swampscott resident who lives along the proposed trail, said the group became aware of a section in the town charter, that allows a challenge to the Town Meeting vote by means of a petition, and that could subsequently force a ballot initiative. He said when they didn’t win at Town Meeting, the group decided to start the petition drive.

The town charter (Section 2-6) reads that votes, except a vote to adjourn or authorize the borrowing of money in receipt of taxes for the current year, passed at Town Meeting don’t go into effect for five days.

The Town Meeting vote can be challenged within five days by filing a petition with the Board of Selectmen, asking that the question be submitted to the town’s voters. If five percent of the town’s registered voters sign the petition, the question in substantially the same language that was presented to Town Meeting, would appear on a ballot during a special election, according to the charter.

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Dwyer said the response to the petition was overwhelming in town. He said people want to be heard on this issue, as opposed to just passing it through Town Meeting because it’s a lot of money to be spent. If the town sinks $850,000 into the project, and then can’t raise enough money to construct the trail, would more funds be requested at Town Meeting, he asked.

He said the other thing people have a problem with is eminent domain, which he said is a great thing to be used to build a new hospital or school, but not to build a recreational trail. Dwyer said people think eminent domain is the wrong thing to do to your neighbors.

“We’re very optimistic and enthused about the support that happened last week and continues to go on, so we hope that carries over to an election,” Dwyer said. “There are so many financial needs in this town that this trail is a luxury and a want more than anything else. We don’t need it, we can’t afford it, and there are many, many more priorities in town than a trail.”

Duplin said there were 10,662 registered voters as of week. The petition needed to garner 5 percent of those voters, or 533 signatures, to force the town-wide vote. She said there were 946 signatures submitted, and that 889 were certified. Other signatures were not certified for things such as illegible signature, some people signed who don’t live in town, and several people signed the petition twice, she added.

After the clerk’s office is done certifying the signatures, Duplin said there is a 48-hour window where anyone can file an objection to the signatures, which expires Wednesday at 5 p.m. She said the petition was handed in on Saturday, within five days of Town Meeting, and the signatures were certified on Monday. If objections are filed, she said the Board of Registrars would have to hold a hearing within 14 days.

Duplin said anyone can file objections for various reasons, but usually the reason is to reduce the number of certified signatures on the petition.

Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the Board of Selectmen, said she has consulted with Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald and some other members of the board, and doesn’t believe it’s wise to challenge the petition.

“I think it will go to a vote,” Dreeben said. “They clearly collected enough signatures and they have been certified so we’re not going to challenge it … People have a right to request a ballot measure for the town-wide vote and we’ll honor that.”

Dreeben said the board would set a date for the election, but the Selectmen have not met yet to discuss that. She said the Town Meeting vote was extremely clear on its approval to allocate the funds.

“I believe the Town Meeting is a good representation of the rest of the town, and I’m quite confident the town-wide vote will be consistent with the Town Meeting vote,” Dreeben said.

Duplin said an election usually costs the town between $10,000 to $12,000, for things such as ballot printing, poll workers and supplies.


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

 

Saugus in the zone

It is remarkable, maybe amazing, to see Saugus residents, with input from the town’s planner, contemplate the resurrection of Eagle Road.

Currently zoned for residential use in a neighborhood located off Route 1 near the Malden and Revere lines, 42-61 Eagle Road are lots located behind Barn Carwash and C & P Imports. The addresses are a mix of rental housing, vacant lots and three owner-occupied properties.

Eagle Road residents asked Town Meeting Monday night to speed along what they termed their street’s inevitable transition to commercial use. They asked Town Meeting members to allow Eagle Road properties to be rezoned for commercial use.

Zoning battles are a recurring drama familiar to anyone serving in town government and even on city zoning and planning boards. The plot line typically involves angry neighbors vowing to preserve the character of their neighborhood against encroaching development.

Commercial activity in the form of a proposed business or a firm seeking to expand is cast almost always as a villain in the zoning drama. But Eagle Road residents threw out the script Monday night by acknowledging reality and stating that the residential character that once defined their street has slipped into the past.

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They also demonstrated a strong grasp of zoning complexities when they acknowledged the challenges they may face in converting the hodge-podge of lots on Eagle Road into a prospective development site.

Town Planner Krista Leahy warned that Eagle Road’s transformation into a commercial area or potential commercial extension of Route 1 will not be as simple as changing language on a property title.

The very fact that Leahy, a recent town hire, waded into the Eagle Road discussion, demonstrates the advances Saugus has made in thinking about its economic future. Route 1 conversations have been dominated this year by discussions about revitalizing the former Hilltop Restaurant site and other big-name parcels along with the highway.

Route 1 at the Malden-Revere end rarely gets illuminated by the development spotlight and Eagle Road residents deserve praise for taking the rare step of initiating a development idea instead of digging in their heels to oppose one.

With Leahy’s guidance and their own demonstration of foresight, it is easy to see how Eagle Road residents and the town can make Eagle Road a stronger contributor to the town’s tax base.

 

Moulton: Trump, honor our commitment to Haiti

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pictured is U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.).

Commentary by SETH MOULTON

The United States has always stood as a place of refuge in times of crises, especially for our neighbors.

This week, as we honor Haitian Flag Day and the Trump Administration considers whether or not to extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to the tens of thousands of Haitians living and working in the United States, we must honor that commitment to our neighbors.

Haitians have a long history here in the United States, from fighting alongside American soldiers in the Revolutionary War, to explorer Jean Baptiste Point du Sable who founded Chicago, to the tens of thousands of Haitian refugees across America, including 84,500 in Massachusetts, who have built their lives here, and contributed to our communities.

This week, the Trump administration will announce whether or not they intend to currently extend TPS for 50,000 Haitian refugees in the United States to enable them to stay while their country tackles insecurity, economic desperation, and health crises.

In the past several years, Haiti has suffered from a series of catastrophic disasters: a devastating earthquake that destroyed 50 healthcare centers and crippled an already-overwhelmed medical system; a cholera epidemic, which killed over 7,000 Haitians and infected at least 530,000, or 5 percent of the population; and Hurricane Matthew that killed 546 Haitians, resulted in nearly $2 billion in damages, and rendered nearly 200,000 Haitians homeless. One of these natural disasters would have crippled Haiti’s already-vulnerable population. Taken together, they have been devastating.

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Since the program launched in 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has extended TPS benefits to Haitians multiple times, most recently in August of 2015 — before Hurricane Matthew. The merits of doing so again are apparent — we must allow people to live and work in the United States while Haiti continues to heal.  

Unfortunately, the Trump Administration has not only delayed the process, but taken the unusual step of directing DHS to compile evidence of crimes committed by Haitians and sought to obtain evidence of Haitians with TPS taking advantage of public benefits. Given the sheer disregard for immigrants that this Administration has shown, this is sadly not surprising.

The reality is that applicants for TPS already undergo exhaustive criminal background checks and are required to be fingerprinted and re-checked against criminal databases again when the status is extended. Furthermore, Haitians with TPS are simply not eligible for federal benefits such as SNAP, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or other assistance programs.

There is bipartisan support for the extension of TPS for Haitian refugees, including from Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Republican Congresswoman Mia Love. During a September 2016 campaign stop in Little Haiti, then candidate Trump said to citizens and refugees there: “Whether you vote for me or not, I really want to be your biggest champion.”

I urge the president to keep his promise to the Haitian community and extend TPS. It is not only a responsibility to the Haitian people, our neighbors, but in keeping with the values we uphold as Americans.


Seth Moulton represents the sixth district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

 

AvalonBay has a plan for Hilltop site

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a rendering for the $100 million development planned for transforming the Hilltop Steak House site.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — The Planning Board signed off on the $100 million AvalonBay Communities development planned for the former Hilltop Steak House site.

The panel unanimously approved the conceptual Master Plan Thursday night, which included revisions made by AvalonBay developers in response to town bylaws and feedback from neighbors. Details of the project still need to be determined. AvalonBay representatives will attend a meeting in two weeks to seek Site Plan approval, which will include everything from materials and color schemes to the property’s infrastructure.

Plans include turning 13.9 acres of the site into a mixed-use development with residential and retail space. The frontage will house one story of retail space, and three four-story residential buildings will be in the rear. The residential space will have a total of 280 studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and a one-story clubhouse with an outdoor swimming pool.

Abutters expressed concerns that the existing swale and wetlands area would be impacted by the new construction. Water runoff from the site ends up in a swale behind homes on Laurine Road, which connects to Crystal Brook. Stephen Martorano, senior project manager at Bohler Engineering, said the swale was 3-feet deep at one point but sediment and leaves have reduced it to about a foot in depth.  

The discussion has caused tempers to rise at several meetings.

Gilway Street resident Patricia Battaglia believes their plan to add one acre of landscaping throughout the site to absorb some of the runoff will fail. She said she believes the pavement is absorbing more water. She has also argued that dredging the swale will result in water moving to Crystal Brook more quickly.

Landscaping will be added at the back of the property to absorb some of the excess water and create a privacy and sound buffer.

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Michael Roberts, AvalonBay senior vice president of development, maintained that plans to construct the residential and retail community include reducing stormwater runoff, not adding to it. The company will dredge the swale to clear it of built-up sediment and leaves and is working with the Department of Public Works to determine who will be responsible for maintaining it. The water will be treated to remove sediment accumulation.

The team made changes to the architecture to better fit with the guidelines and requirements outlined by the town for mixed-use developments.

Each unit will have a bay window and most will have a balcony to give the community more of an inclusive feel. The lobby of each apartment building will be open and face a common area to promote use of the retail space. The amount of glass used in the retail buildings was upped from 16 percent to more than 20. Stores will range in size from 1,500 to 2,000 square feet. A wall and fence will be added to the back and side edges of the site for privacy. The color scheme has yet to be determined.

The board also accepted the traffic plan, which includes a deceleration lane, and the environmental study, which outlines plans to clean up the wetlands and add invasive plants.

Gilway Street resident Peter Paskaley wasn’t sold on the developer’s traffic analysis.

“I foresee it being an additional burden on an already taxed roadway,” he said.

AvalonBay will return in two weeks to seek Site Plan approval. Roberts said the company anticipates that once permitting is in place, construction will be completed in 20 to 24 months.


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