, Newburyport, MA

February 8, 2013

Housing proposals aired before Planning Board


---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Planning Board took no action on two proposed housing plans Wednesday night, after protracted discussions on both.

The Chart House Development LLC has submitted paperwork to put nine condominium units on 2 Mechanics Court, off Merrimac Street; and in a separate proposal, developer Jay Caswell plans to put five single-family residences on a parcel at 325 High St.

Developers of the Mechanics Court complex appeared before the board because they are seeking to put two buildings on one parcel. Spokesman Mark Griffin said that the team he represents wants to develop five residential units in one building, and four units in another.

They plan to move an existing historic building (circa 1790) to another part of the same parcel in order to make room for the two new structures.

Several Planning Board members urged developers to consider creating at least one affordable unit in the project. Others urged that original elements be preserved in the historical building, which once served as a repair shop for horse-drawn carriages.

Representatives of Merrimack Place, the 62-unit condominium complex that abuts the property, urged that drainage issues be studied carefully so their property would not be affected by run-off if the nine units are built.

Several residents who live in the area expressed support of the plan, which they said would improve a property that bordered on “blight.” The dirt parcel is now used as a used-car lot and an office for a construction company.

The discussion was continued until developers can provide more details on how they would preserve historic elements and consider inclusion of affordable units.

Caswell has proposed to build five houses on property that now includes 323R, 325 and 329 High St, properties near the entrance of the Bresnahan School.

The house at 325 High St. would be demolished. Board members agreed that the mid-’70s structure has no historical value, but several expressed concern that trees would have to be cut on the 1.5-acre parcel.

Developers are asking for several waivers, including the request to make the road into the subdivision 20 feet, rather than the proscribed 24 feet.

Planners said they will review the requests for waivers and discuss the matter at a future meeting.