Opinion

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.

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.

 

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