, Newburyport, MA

January 4, 2013

'Kartland' project sold to NH developer

By Angeljean Chiaramida

---- — SALISBURY — The former home of Kartland, a 13-acre Beach Road location approved for a 210-unit condo complex, has been sold again, this time to a Portsmouth, N.H., company.

According to records at the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds, the parcel was sold for $2.5 million on Dec. 28 to 191 Beach Realty, a limited liability corporation located on Maplewood Avenue in Portsmouth, N.H. The registered agent for the LLC is listed as James B. McDevitt on the company’s Certificate of Formation, which was filed with the New Hampshire Secretary of State’s office on Nov. 16, 2012.

The land was sold to 191 Beach Realty by Legacy Park Salisbury One, an LLC linked to Federated Companies of Boston. In March 2011, Federated purchased the land for $1.5 million from the Goldman family, which had owned and operated Kartland on the site for decades.

In 2007, prior to selling the land, the Goldmans developed the site plan for 210 residential condominiums at the location. Months of work and negotiation went into the Goldmans obtaining approvals from town agencies, including both the Salisbury Conservation Commission and Planning Board, for the development, which, if built, will be the largest residential subdivision in the town’s history.

Careful scrutiny was given to the Goldmans’ proposal because the land is located near Salisbury’s salt marsh wetlands. In addition, the look of the buildings and make-up of the complex were important to Planning Board members because they considered the location “the entrance” into Salisbury Beach.

According to Chief Operating Officer Nick Wexler, Federated decided to sell the parcel because of a change in the company’s business plan.

“In general, we had a shift in company focus back to an urban product,” Wexler said yesterday. “We’re still involved in multifamily, residential and retail projects, but those that would be urban centered.”

Wexler said in decades past, there was a drift away from cities, with people and businesses migrating into the suburbs. With the rise in the cost of energy and housing, however, Wexler believes the trend is moving back to cities, which have mass transit, lower housing costs and more entertainment and cultural options.

Attempts to garner comment from McDevitt on his company’s plans for the site were unsuccessful. But, according to the Certificate of Formation for 191 Beach Realty LLC, the nature of the primary business or purposes of the company is listed as “Apartment Complex.”

Wexler said he could not be specific about 191 Beach Realty’s plans because of a confidentiality agreement they related to the sale of the property; however, he believes they are looking at a 210-unit development.

“They are a very sophisticated group, and I believe they’ll do right by the project,” Wexler said.

In July 2011, a few months after purchasing the land from the Goldman family, Federated Companies had announced it wanted to alter the previously approved 210-condo plan for one that would include 76 single-family homes. Although some officials initially liked the idea of fewer dwellings, when the plan actually came forward, it lost favor with the Planning Board because it called for very small lots to fit all the homes on the 13-acre site, Salisbury director of planning Lisa Pearson said at the time. Having living space on the ground level also caused problems, for the area is in a flood plain, Pearson added.

As recently as March 2012, Federated Companies announced it had acquired all the necessary approvals to go forward with the Goldmans’ original plan. In March, Pearson said that Federated’s next move was a preconstruction meeting with town officials, but a certain amount of preconstruction site work had to be done on the land before the company could actually pull a building permit.

Town Manager Neil Harrington was surprised to hear of the sale to the Portsmouth company. He said no building related or earth removal permits were applied for by Federated Companies to his knowledge. To do the site work needed for the development, earth removal permits would have been necessary because the approved plans required the site itself be raised about 10 feet to accommodate the stormwater/drainage system required by the town. The intent of the stipulation was to eliminate rainwater collected and flooding on the site, which at times sent untreated stormwater into the abutting salt marsh.

Harrington said before it can proceed, the project needs to get a new height variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The original high variances to accommodate the tall buildings acquired by the Goldmans had expired, Harrington said.

As approved in 2007, the project was for a seven-building development, arranged in a loose oval around the site, allowing vistas of the salt marsh to be seen from the roadway. The approved plan included one clubhouse, a pool and six 45-foot-tall, garden-style condominium buildings of varying unit capacity. The 210 units were to be broken into 66 one-bedroom and 144 two-bedroom units. In addition to the garage parking totaling 260 spaces, there was space for another 182 exterior spaces. Parking spaces was to allow for two cars per unit and 22 visitor spaces.

There were also technicalities surrounding the project’s compliance with the town’s affordable housing ordinance involved with the subdivision. To comply with Salisbury’s bylaw, the project must provide 26 condominiums priced in perpetuity in accordance with state requirements for households of low to moderate income. According to the conditions of the project’s original approval, the mix of affordable units was to be eight one-bedroom units and 18 two-bedroom units, sprinkled as evenly as possible throughout the six buildings.

The Goldmans had also agreed to contribute $30,000 for the rehabilitation of the Salisbury Beach Baseball Field near the project before the first building permit was issued.