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Swampscott opens its doors to tourists

COURTESY PHOTO
The Swampscott area is shown in the above map. 

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Two zoning changes approved at Town Meeting on Tuesday night could bring a hotel or inn to Swampscott, along with more affordable housing.

The two zoning changes dominated the discussion during the second night of Town Meeting, but the more debated of the two was regarding a tourist lodging overlay district.

Town Meeting members voted, 153-51, in favor of amending zoning bylaws to create a tourist lodging overlay district, and modify where hotels, motels, inns and a bed and breakfast are allowed by special permit. The overlay district identifies more areas where the lodgings are possible, and the purpose is to make Swampscott more of a tourist destination again. The current zoning law has significant restrictions in place, making the creation of tourist lodging difficult in Swampscott, officials said.

The tourist lodging overlay district includes the portion of Humphrey Street from the Lynn line to the monument. There are also the properties on the east side of Puritan Road, opposite Sandy Beach. The Planning Board recommended to Town Meeting members, which was also accepted with the vote, that two properties on Sculpin Way be eliminated from the district, along with the properties from Phillips Beach to Preston Beach.

There is currently only one bed and breakfast in town on Humphrey Street, and there are no hotels, motels or inns.

Peter Kane, director of community development, said the properties were chosen so hotels would be adjacent to or across from water, with easy access to beaches, but also on main routes.

Town Meeting members questioned why the properties near Marblehead were removed, with Gerard Perry saying that there is a perception that certain neighborhoods in town are being treated differently, and he wanted to make sure that everyone was being treated fairly.

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Voters also approved amending the zoning bylaw by adding affordable housing regulations, or inclusionary housing regulations. The purpose is to encourage affordable housing in town, which is below the state required amount of affordable housing units. The town is at 3.75 percent, while 10 percent of all units are required to meet the affordable housing definition, officials said.

The Planning Board recommended, which was approved, that if a new project, or development is a certain size, developers would be required to contribute 10 percent, rather than the initial drafted 15 percent figure, of its units as affordable.

That would apply to a multi-family development, with 10 or more units; a new subdivision, with six or more units; and an assisted living facility or independent living facility, with five or more units, Kane said.

Developers can also pay a fee in lieu of offering affordable housing, which would go toward the town’s affordable housing trust. The change only applies to developments proposed after Town Meeting.

Richard Frenkel, a Town Meeting member, questioned the change from 15 to 10 percent.

Kane said the Planning Board heard feedback that 15 percent was a little too aggressive for initial adoption.

Town Meeting members also approved lowering the town’s speed limit from 30 to 25 miles per hour, as part of the Municipal Modernization Act, which allows the Board of Selectmen to lower the speed limit on certain roads without state approval.

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The change won’t affect state-controlled roads, such as Paradise Road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph, or town roads with posted speed limits lower than 25 mph.

Voters approved an article authorizing the Board of Selectmen to petition the General Court for special legislation allowing the board to issue eight additional all-liquor licenses. The town currently has 14. Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald said the last license was recently issued by the selectmen, and the increase is intended to bring additional businesses to Swampscott.

Town Meeting members approved placing a historic preservation restriction on the Swampscott Fish House.

Gino Cresta, department of public works director and assistant town administrator, said previously that the grant will allow the town to receive a $50,000 Mass Historical grant for renovations to the Fish House, which it has already applied for.

The Fish House is already on the Massachusetts Historic Register, but the historic preservation restriction puts more protection, and exterior work done on the building would require Massachusetts Historical Commission permission, Cresta said.

The Swampscott Yacht Club are tenants in the building. Jackson Schultz, past commodore of the Swampscott Yacht Club, spoke in opposition to the article, saying he’d much prefer to go to the town for permission for alterations to the building, rather than go to the state. He said one of the club’s goals is to eventually put a kitchen back in place.

“I rise against this change,” Schultz said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

 

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