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Salem to decide on change for police station

SALEM — At the March town election, voters will have the chance to approve a zoning change for the police station on Veterans Memorial Parkway.

The Planning Board recently held a public hearing on unifying the zoning of the parcel to help increase the potential future sale of the property by the town.

Although there are no definitive plans to build a new police station, Selectman James Keller said he has been tasked with looking at the possibility of combined public safety complex for the town. If the town were to go ahead with that plan at some point, it could sell the current police station property to help pay for the new complex.

However, the parcel has a combination of commercial and town center zoning. According to Keller, having the entire parcel zoned commercially would increase the resale value for the town and improve development opportunities.

Several Planning Board members opposed the zoning change, citing the wetlands on the property that would make it difficult to develop as a large commercial lot.

Board member Ronald Belanger voted against the zoning change, stating that he doesn’t think the town should be paving the way for a new location for a police station.

“If we make that a retail lot, what are people going to put there?” Belanger asked. “I think it is more useful for the town to keep that (parcel) and redo the police station where it is.”

Belanger noted that the police station is centrally located and close to the town’s high school and major retail developments.

Keller said if the town does move forward at some point with a combined police and fire public safety complex, the current police station site would not be large enough.

“In the event that we do sell that property, the value would nearly double if it was zoned commercial,” said Keller. “This is an attempt that in the event we do consider selling, the commercial zone would be the most lucrative for the town.”

Planning Board member Linda Harvey initially proposed only rezoning to commercial the parcel of the police station property that does not contain wetlands, but she eventually voted to move the amendment to the town election ballot as initially proposed.

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