Selectman Michael Serino explains the zoning articles he is submitting into the Annual Town Meeting Warrant to address height and density concerns
Over the past several years I have heard from many residents and Town Meeting members who supported the mixed use zoning on Route 1, questioning if the change was a good idea because of the influx of apartments.
When the Route 1 mixed use zoning article was approved in 2015, I was not a member of Town Meeting or the Board of Selectmen and consequently had no knowledge or input in the zoning. However, like many residents, I was concerned that Route 1 was starting to become run down with vacant stores. Moreover, considering the fact that a lot of shopping is now conducted online, I agreed with most that maybe some type of mixed use zoning would help revitalize Route 1.
Although I do support good development, I was disappointed after the development of the former Hilltop property where residential represented ninety two (92%) and commercial only represented eight (8%). Consequently, I felt that the Route 1 zoning bylaw needed adjustments. Last year I was the main author of several zoning changes that Town Meeting members overwhelmingly supported. I am optimistic that the updated zoning changes will produce better quality developments with more commercial, less apartments and more protection for abutting neighborhoods. The Kowloon project is the last project to fall under the old zoning bylaws. Consequently, any new developments will now fall under the new zoning bylaw changes.
Unfortunately, some concerns still remain. The first is increasing the height of buildings in order to increase apartment density. I researched zoning bylaws in several surrounding communities including Lynnfield, Wakefield, Danvers and Peabody. Saugus is the only community that allows building heights up to 90 feet, not only on Route 1, but throughout the entire town as well. My proposed zoning articles would reduce the building height (in-town) from 90 feet to 4 stories and a maximum height of 50 feet in R-4, B-2, I-1, I-2, Waterfront and the Mills districts. The building height on Route 1 would be reduced from 90 feet to 5 stories and a maximum height of 60 feet. Please note that our zoning bylaw requires that any building height over 40 feet would still require a special permit from the Board of Selectmen.
My second concern is the allowable apartment density. When the original Route 1 zoning bylaw was passed in 2015 the allowable density was 30 units per acre. In 2019, I had submitted a zoning change that would reduce the density from 30 units to 20 units per acre. However, our former planner suggested that 20 units per acre was too restrictive and suggested 25 units per acre. Since then I have conducted an analysis of building lots along Route 1 ranging in size from nine (9) acres to sixty (60) acre lots. Potential development and/or redevelopment of those lots at 25 units per acre could result in 4,800 apartments. A density of 20 units per acre would result in 3,840 apartments. Therefore, I have reintroduced an article reducing the density from 25 units per acre to 20 units per acre. This density amount is the same which is currently allowed under our Town’s Zoning Bylaw, Article XXI C. Planned Multi-Density Residential Development at 20 units per acre. I hope that Town Meeting Members will support these articles.
Height Comparisons (Over 40 Feet):
Town of Saugus: R-4, B-2, 1-1, 1-2, BHSD, Mills and Waterfront (90 feet)
Town of Lynnfield: Commercial and Industrial (50 feet)/Town Meeting 2018
Town of Wakefield: Multi-Family and Limited Business (50 feet)
Business/Mixed Use and Industrial (60 feet)
Town of Danvers: Route 114-Mixed Use and Commercial (45 feet)
Rt. 1 – Mixed Use, Industrial and Village district (55 feet)
City of Peabody: Central Business (50 Feet)
Designated Development District (72 feet)
(Editor’s Note: This comparison information was compiled by Selectman Michael Serino.)