Essentially declaring the northernmost stretches of Main Street as off-limits for any other type of development, Lynnfield's citizens recently defended the area's underlying single-family zoning designation.
In a lopsided decision that caught some political observers by surprise, Lynnfield's voters in late April rejected a Town Meeting rezoning initiative needed to facilitate the construction of an age-restricted condominium development on Main Street by the Sagamore Springs Golf Course.
The proposed legislation, which required a two-thirds vote to pass, failed in dramatic fashion by failing to garner even a simple majority of supporters. Though the zoning change was endorsed by both Lynnfield's Board of Selectmen and Finance Board, voters defeated Article 16 by a near two-to-one margin in a 174-to-340 vote.
Melrose developer Angus Bruce, who was hoping to shift a portion of a 22.6-acre parcel by 1414 Main St. into the town's senior housing district, had planned on constructing as many as 66 duplex-style dwelling units for persons aged 55 and older on the heavily-wooded site, which is situated a short proximity away from the Peabody line.
Bruce is reportedly now considering a by-right subdivision for the land that would include the construction of as many as 15 single-family homes.
Technically, Bruce and proponents of the senior housing had referenced that traditional subdivision as a worst-case scenario for the community, which would have to bear the expense of educating a host of new school-aged children who move into the neighborhood.
That strategy backfired, as Lynnfield's voters, far from bemoaning the projected addition of as many as 40 new pupils, openly welcomed the alternative proposal during the Town Meeting assembly.
"I think that perspective is a sad commentary on our town. Since those children aren't here to advocate for themselves, I as a parent feel compelled to speak for them," Lynnfield resident Andrea Paciello said. "I for one, welcome children and the next generation."
This spring's defeat of the zoning initiative marks the second time in a year that Lynnfield citizens have chased away a developer looking to construct a 55-plus housing complex along the northern portions on Main Street.
Last year, the community similarly rejected a zoning change needed to advance Mashpee-based Bonvie Homes' proposal to build a gated 55-plus townhouse project on the easterly side of the 171-acre Sagamore Spring Golf Club.
As with the most recent zoning change, opponents of the golf course redevelopment cited traffic concerns, particularly by the busy intersection of Lowell and Main Streets, as well as worries about water supply and wastewater treatment impacts.
The Woods at Lynnfield
In March, Bruce first approached Lynnfield's Board of Selectmen with his Woods at Lynnfield plans, which would have involved the construction of 66 two-bedroom condominiums, each with a two-car garage and a total living area of 2,100 square feet.
In exchange for passage of the zoning legislation, the developer agreed to pay the Town of Lynnfield a flat $650,000 payment to offset potential project impacts. That development agreement also stipulated that a condo association would be financially responsible for all trash hauling and road maintenance services.
According to the petitioner, the new duplexes would generate more than $600,000 in new tax revenues, $1.25 million in one-time permitting fees, and include the construction of a 60,000-gallon cistern system to improve firefighting protection services for the entire area.
By contrast, the developer contended a single-family subdivision would pass on a host of service costs to the community, including significant annual expenses associated with educating as many as 40 new children in Lynnfield's Public Schools.
"If there's 15 single-family homes with 40 children, it will cost the town $285,000. This project is designed for retired people to live nearby friends and family. There's a minimal impact on community resources," Bruce argued at April's Town Meeting.
Citing possible enrollment increases, Lynnfield Selectman Paul Crawford described the educational impacts from a single-family subdivision as potentially devastating for taxpayers. Crawford, citing a traffic analysis from the developer's consulting team, also suggested the senior housing would generate less traffic than a by-right housing project.
"At the end of the day, you're looking at whether you want 16 new homes or an elderly housing development. It's not elderly housing or nothing," the selectman warned.
"The biggest impact would be on the schools. If you bring in 20 to 30 children, and that's on the conservative side, it's going to have an impact on Summer Street's elementary school. In a couple of years, we might be looking at a large override to expand our school system," Crawford added.
Disputing many of the developer's findings, Main Street resident Kenneth Peterson, speaking on behalf of neighborhood abutters, contended the senior housing proposal would create traffic and public safety nightmares for the area.
For example, the petitioner's traffic consultant, GPI engineer Heather Monticup, insisted that site distances from the development's site driveway would extend more than 100 yards down Main Street in either direction.
Taking aim at that claim, Peterson maintained that the topography and layout of Main Street — rather than the site distances — presented the real danger for motorists traveling past the site. The abutter also predicted that the installation of speed-control signs would have a negligible effect in the area, which is commonly used as a cut-through for commuters and truckers.
"The present single-family zoning has a lengthy historical precedent for the safety of the residents and motorists on a dangerous, steep, narrow, and curved road. You're blindsided on this roadway because you can't see around the hills," Peterson remarked.
Numerous other townspeople challenged the developer's traffic findings, as well as the contention that those living in the senior units would consume less water than residents in single-family homes. Because the area around the Sagamore Golf Course has no water and sewage infrastructure, leaving area residents dependent upon septic systems and private wells, the proposed development's impacts on the water table was of considerable concern.