BY DYKE HENDRICKSON STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURYPORT – A petition for a use variance to enable The Northbridge Companies to continue with plans to build a 76-bed medical center for disabled adults on a site adjacent to property owned by Anna Jaques Hospital was unanimously approved by the City Council Tuesday night.
The approval clears the way for Northbridge to utilize Wallace Bashaw Jr. Way, which runs from Low Street to the property it plans to develop.
City officials say that council approval was required because the land, controlled by Anna Jaques Hospital, was zoned residential.
Reviews before several municipals board still must take place before the center can obtain final approval.
Wallace Bashaw Jr. Way borders part of the 11-acre parcel known as the Rindler property, upon which the developer is planning to build. No starting date for construction has been discussed.
Northbridge originally had proposed placing its access road off Toppans Lane, but the Burlington developer changed its plans when it encountered opposition from neighbors and hospital officials.
In a deal made public several weeks ago, Anna Jaques officials agreed to support Northbridge’s development plans in exchange for land that will result in about 135 parking spots for the hospital.
Councilors voted 10-0 to grant the petition, with Councilor Ari Herzog absent from the special meeting.
In other action, the council narrowly (6-4) approved a special appropriation of $5,000 for the Jeanne Geiger Crisis Center and its work to aid abused women.
Much of the sum will be directed to overtime payments and other personnel costs that law-enforcement officials generate in aiding at-risk families, officials from the center said.
It appeared that all councilors agreed with the cause, but several stated that it is not the council’s role to make contributions to nonprofit groups.
Councilor Tom Jones said that it could start an inappropriate precedent. Councilor Bob Cronin, a career police officer who said he has worked to improve conditions for women, stated that police forces provide 24-7 attention to residents’ needs, and expressed concern about earmarking funds for overtime.
Voting in favor were councilors Ed Cameron, Barry Connell, Greg Earls, Allison Heartquist, Kathleen O’Connor Ives and Tom O’Brien. Voting against the appropriation were councilors Brian Derrivan, Dick Sullivan Jr., Cronin and Jones.