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Over-55 proposal headed to Lynnfield Town Meeting with mixed support

An artist's rendering of a duplex Brookstone Development wanted to build on Main Street, Lynnfield.
An artist's rendering of a duplex Brookstone Development wanted to build on Main Street, Lynnfield. (Brookstone Development)

LYNNFIELD — A proposed residential development geared toward older residents lacks the Planning Board’s endorsement, but won support from the Board of Selectmen and the Finance Committee on the eve of Monday’s Town Meeting.

Voters are being asked to rezone 1414 Main St. to allow senior housing. Developer William A. Bruce has a purchase and sale agreement to buy the property from the owners, Richardson Green Inc. and Suzanne S. Winn Revocable Trust. Under his proposal, 66 duplexes would be built.

The Melrose developer received unanimous support from selectmen this week following an 8-2 Finance Committee vote in favor.

But Bruce left the Planning Board’s April 16 meeting with three members supporting member Katherine Flaws’ motion recommending Town Meeting reject the project.

Board member Charles Wills was the sole member to support the zoning change.

The vote came on the heels of concerns raised by a dozen Lynnfield residents during the meeting about water supply for the project and Main Street traffic.

Bruce’s plan for the development calls for drilling wells in a circular wooded area ringed by the project’s residences grouped in 33 buildings.

“We’ll have our own water supply,” project engineer John Morin told the board. But Flaws questioned the potential impact of the proposed wells on the Central Water District serving Lynnfield. Resident Holly Ciampa echoed Flaws’ concerns and Bruce said he would consider reducing the number of homes in the project proposal to reduce water use.

Main Street traffic was the biggest concern raised about the project. Kenneth Peterson, an upper Main Street resident for more than 30 years, said Main Street has “a lengthy history of traffic accidents.”

“It’s very narrow and very curved,” he said.

Timothy Letton, the developer’s traffic engineer, said his analysis indicated Main Street has seen two crashes in the last five years, single-car accidents with one driver hitting a deer and another running into a utility pole.

Letton said the analysis indicated most Main Street drivers travel at 40 miles per hour and traffic volume is growing at a rate of about 1 percent annually.

But Peterson and other residents painted a different picture of traffic near the proposed development site. Ciampa said speeding is a major problem on the road and a constant concern for residents pulling out into traffic.

“Many times I’ve almost been hit,” she said.

John Thomas lives across from the project’s proposed entrance. He said the developer’s analysis for traffic generated by new housing would significantly increase the number of vehicles passing by his home.

“To have that amount of traffic is ridiculous,” he said. “It’s a bad stretch of road.”  

Bruce said he is willing to put electronic speed warning signs near the project’s entrance to slow traffic.

On several occasions during the Planning Board hearing, Bruce said zoning now allows him to build as many as 15 single-family homes on the 23-acre site to meet the zoning’s minimum 60,000-square-foot lot size.

“I’ll have to go through the process, but they’re a lock,” he said.

He emphasized that the proposed 66 units will generate $609,000 in property tax revenue annually for the town while a single-family project potentially represented added costs.

Flaws and board member Brian Charville each raised broad view concerns about the project. Flaws labeled it “isolated” with “nothing to make it part of the surrounding community.”

After calling Bruce’s plan “a very smart proposal,” Charville summarized residents’ concerns about changing upper Main Street zoning to elderly housing.

“Like it or not, you’re adding more density,” he said. “Recommending (elderly) zoning is upending expectations for people living in the neighborhood. It’s really changing expectations people have.”

Town Director of Planning and Conservation Emilie Cademartori said Town Meeting will evaluate the Planning Board vote on the proposed zoning change as well as Finance Committee and Board of Selectmen recommendations in deciding whether to approve or reject Article 16.

If Town Meeting rejects the proposal, Cademartori said Bruce could file plans to construct single-family housing at the location.


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