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Historical claims may halt Saugus project

SAUGUS — The state Historical Commission is advocating for an archaeological review of the proposed Saugus Ridge development site, claiming the parcel could contain ancient Native American artifacts.

“Review of the MHC’s inventory of historic and archaeological assets of the commonwealth indicates that the parcel includes the recorded location of an ancient period Native American site,” executive director Brona Simon said in a letter to Secretary Matthew Beaton of the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs.

The project adjoins Pranker’s Pond and Lily’s Pond, both locations of historical industry that included a dam, canal and mills dating from the 17th through the early 20th century, she said.

Portions of the parcel are archaeologically sensitive or significant for ancient and historical period archaeological resources. It may also have locations of exposed volcanic and metamorphic rock, which was a preferred lithic material for ancient period stone tool manufacture, according to the letter.

The 300 units include 100 one-bedroom units, 36 one-bedroom apartments with a den, 87 two-bedrooms, 17 two-bedrooms with a den, 31 three-bedroom units, and 29 studios. Of the 300 units, 75 are expected to be affordable. The cost for rent is expected to range from $1,400 to $2,000.

There will be 482 parking spaces, 25 of them in one-story covered garages, and an access road through 720 Broadway to Route 1.  

The state’s 40B housing program allows developers to override local zoning bylaws to increase the stock of affordable housing in municipalities where less than 10 percent of the homes are affordable.

In 2016, the Massachusetts Area Planning Council held visioning sessions with the town to help develop a housing development plan. At the time, only 7 percent, or 749 units, were considered affordable.

If the town does not meet the required 10 percent, developers are allowed to override local zoning and build denser developments.

Moderate income is defined as 80 percent of median income, which is also defined by the federal government regionally. In the Boston area, which includes Saugus, the median income for a family of four is $107,000. Moderate income in Saugus is about $80,000.

Low income is defined as 50 percent of the median income, and very low income is denied as 30 percent of the median income.

This isn’t the first setback for the potential developers.

In February, Toll Brothers Apartment Living redesigned their proposal for Saugus Ridge because they discovered a population of Spotted Tiger Beetles that have already laid claim to the 28-acre property.

“After meeting with National Heritage and walking the site, we came up with an alternative to preserve a lot of the area that the beetle inhabits,” said Bill Levitt, regional director of acquisitions and development for Toll Brothers.

Tiger Beetles are named because of their tiger-like behavior of chasing down and capturing prey with their long mandibles, according to a document created by the State Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program.

They are known to live in open areas with silty or sandy soil, typically in or near wetlands, and are about 12 to 15mm in length.

In an effort to preserve rock outcroppings, which are prime habitat for the species, the site will no longer be leveled and the building will be in a new location, said Brian Jones, an engineer with Allen and Major.

“We reworked the site to pull it away from the south path,” said Jones. “It’s been dramatically relocated to the north and west of the property, essentially to preserve some of the ledge outcroppings that have been determined to be habitat for the beetle on this property.”

To reduce the footprint but keep the same amount of units, the developers added a fifth story to a single building.

“The MHC recommends that an intensive (locational) archaeological survey be conducted for the project,” Simon wrote in the letter. “The goal of the survey is to locate, identify and evaluate any significant archaeological resources that may be affected by the project, and to provide sufficient information to consult to reach agreement to avoid or mitigate any project related adverse effects.”


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