Forest Road housing complex continues to receive criticism

JIM SULLIVAN/Staff photoTim Neal, a resident of Gerrish Road in Salisbury, shows some of his yard signs opposing a development on Forest Road. 

SALISBURY — A housing complex proposed on Forest Road continues to receive criticism from area residents.

Real estate developer Steve Paquette seeks to build a 76-unit condominium complex, Meadowview at Salisbury, at 6 Forest Road.

The project would be built on 28 acres by 6 Forest Road LLC, a Boston-based development company. The plans call for 57 market rate units selling for about $350,000 each and 19 affordable housing units for between $180,000 and $220,000, placing the complex within the state’s 40B housing guidelines.

The project is the subject of a comprehensive permit application before the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has continued the matter until May 25.

“I believe this project will provide significant additional tax resources to the town while, at the same time, it will introduce a type of housing unit that is very difficult to find and is moderately priced,” Paquette said.

Paquette reached a purchase-and-sales agreement for $800,000 with the property owners, Selectman Freeman Condon and his wife, Maureen Condon.

The agreement requires that if the project is approved for more than 40 units, Paquette would pay the Condons an additional $10,000 per unit, up to 50 units, as well as an additional $5,000 for each approved unit over 50.

The town is above the state-required 10% of its total number of housing units categorized as affordable housing and the project has encountered resistance from Forest Road area residents. An online petition objecting to the project has received more than 600 signatures.

Gerrish Road resident Tim Neal is also not a fan of the proposal and has circulated “Stop 6 Forest Rd. Project” lawn signs among his neighbors.

“It really looks like a backdoor deal,” Neal said. “I’ve been going to these Zoning Board of Appeals meetings and the way they treat other abutters on other jobs at these meetings is very different than how they treat us.”

Neal moved to town from Lynn two years ago because he said he enjoys Salisbury’s “small-town” feel.

“They are using this 40B to load up the neighborhood,” Neal said. “I came from nothing and I had to work my butt off to move up here. I came here for the small-town living and they want to make this place look like Cambridge.”

Paquette also developed The Village at Salisbury Square condominium complex on Beach Road and is the project manager for the 235-unit One Oceanfront housing complex at the corner of Broadway and Oceanfront South.

Paquette said he has been involved in at least six site visits with neighbors and has reduced the number of units at 6 Forest Road to 64, with 16 of those categorized as affordable housing.

“There is absolutely no credence whatsoever to the allegation that this is somehow some kind of backroom deal. I find that offensive,” Paquette said. “I have been developing real estate in Salisbury for over 25 years now. The projects that I have developed, have, without a doubt, substantially contributed to the tax base of Salisbury.”

Neal said he and his neighbors are not necessarily opposed to a 40B housing complex, but it is the congestion it might bring that concerns them the most.

“We not only did a traffic study but the town hired their own, third party peer review consultant,” Paquette said. “So the traffic study was done two times, in effect. In both instances, the conclusion was that this neighborhood can easily withstand the traffic proposed.”

The proposed project could also potentially send 40 more students to the Triton Regional School District and further burden taxpayers, according to Neal.

Paquette said the two-bedroom units would not generate a lot of school-aged children.

“Anyone who knows anything about these kinds of developments will tell you that,” he said.

Neal said growing up in Lynn taught him just how many people can really live in a small apartment.

“He’s trying to tell me that no one is going to have a family in an 1,100-square-foot home or a three-bedroom. I grew up in Lynn. I’ve seen it all the time,” Neal said. “Look, we know that something is going to be built there. We just want something that is in the same scope as the rest of the area.”

Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at jsullivan@newburyportnews.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.

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