Mariner sails again

Like a bad penny or a cautionary tale, the Mariner assisted living project is sailing back into Marblehead for a court-ordered review by the same town board that rejected the 87-apartment project last year.

Mariner’s developers hope to drop anchor at 265 Pleasant St., but their return is getting a none-too-pleasant reception from residents who have posted “single residence only” signs in the neighborhood in preparation for a Nov. 6 Zoning Board of Appeals hearing.

The public hearing scheduled for 7 p.m. at Veterans Middle School places the board in an almost no-win situation: The board can review and subsequently approve a revised plan for Mariner or find itself in state Land Court in two weeks standing trial for last year’s decision rejecting the project.

The board initially rejected the Mariner application with members contending the project’s design features were not compatible with the existing neighborhood. The board, in its decision, went on to say that the project, which includes parks, walking paths, a restaurant and other amenities, would have adverse effects on neighboring property lots.

At first glance, it is hard to imagine the board rejecting a project as seemingly well thought-out and pleasant-sounding as Mariner. The assisted living facility’s name even as a Marblehead-esque ring to it.

But Pleasant Street homeowners have taken an organized and concerted approach to raising concerns about the project and it’s equally hard to imagine a revised plan satisfying the zoning board next week, much less the neighbors.

But before anyone concludes Mariner is going to steam into the turbulent waters of an expensive court battle, maybe the town’s most level-headed residents will stand up and urge everyone to take a step back and discuss the project in broader terms.

The need for assisted living facilities is growing, not diminishing, in 21st century America and the North Shore is the beneficiary of plenty of well-run and innovative facilities serving seniors. These facilities are needed in cities as well as small towns like Marblehead. Building a Mariner might just mean people who have given their time, money and talent to Marblehead for decades might decide to stay in town instead of moving out of town and away from loved ones and friends.

“Does Marblehead need an assisted living facility” is a fundamental question that should be asked and answered before details of the proposed Mariner revision are examined. The board should be invited to reconsider Mariner next week in terms of long term town needs and local quality of life. The project may return mid-month to court on technicalities but it would be a shame if the town missed a chance to meet an important local need over technicalities.

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