Manchester ZBA pleased with architectural changes to 40B project

A new rendering of Strategic Land Ventures’ 40B affordable housing project on Shingle Hill.

MANCHESTER — After the final public hearing regarding Strategic Land Venture’s 40B affordable housing project on Shingle Hill, the Zoning Boad of Appeals late Wednesday night began deliberating on approval for the 136-unit apartment complex.

At the start of the hearing, ZBA Chairwoman Sarah Mellish thanked the members of the public and the numerous peer reviewers who assisted with the pubic hearing process.

She mentioned the ZBA had received numerous letters and a petition with hundreds of signatures urging the Board to deny the project. There were no letters in support of the project.

However, Mellish continued, the ZBA denying the comprehensive permit won’t end the project outright.

The denial will “likely” be overturned by the Housing Appeals Committee, which would mean the town would have no input on the project including the many environmental protection waivers requested by SLV.

A comprehensive permit would allow for the ZBA to include specific conditions for the project. Conditions previously suggested by peer reviewer Beals+Thomas would require SLV to provide additional stormwater management information, adhere to an agreed-upon conservation restriction and an annual survey of the area’s vernal pools during pre-construction and for three consecutive non-drought years after construction.

Mellish followed her remarks by opening the floor to the 126 attendees that logged into the hearing over Zoom. All who spoke during public comment advised the ZBA to deny the project.

A number of people, including lawyer Luke Legere representing Citizens’ Initiative For Affordable Housing, and lawyer Daniel Hill of Hill Law, said the project could be rejected based solely on site access grounds. The project as planned only has one road to the development. SLV has stated the project is in compliance with state regulations, but those during public comment questioned what would happen if the road became inaccessible to first responders during an emergency.

Even two residents of Essex spoke out against the project. Essex Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Ruth Pereen stated the project would negatively affect the citizens of Essex as the “unsightly” building sits right by the town line.

At the time of publication, the public comment period has closed and the ZBA have begun deliberating. The ZBA has 40 days to consider the comprehensive permit after the public hearing closes.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or mcronin@gloucestertimes.com.

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