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Work would clarify zoning for Salem health care facilities

SALEM — A Planning Board amendment on the March town election ballot will allow health care facilities in the town’s commercial and industrial zoning districts.

For many years, health care facilities such as doctors, dentists, and other medical offices have been allowed in these districts without specific language identifying them, according to town planning director Ross Moldoff.

“Our zoning ordinance is silent in identifying these particular uses as permitted uses,” he said. “The only thing we see in the zoning ordinance is that offices are allowed, but some of the things we are starting to get are well beyond offices.”

Moldoff pointed to the recent approval of surgical treatment centers and urgent care clinics as health care facilities that fall outside the definitions of the typical office.

“My thought is that we should specifically identify these types of uses as permitted uses in the commercial-industrial districts,” said Moldoff.

The definition of the health care facilities in the district include facilities that provide medical treatment or care to outpatients. Moldoff said the definition does not allow for biomedical laboratories or other facilities that might be medical in nature, but which do not provide patient care.

Hospitals are already an allowed use in the town’s commercial-industrial districts, according to Moldoff.

Selectman James Keller said he had some concerns about there being adequate parking for health care facilities. Moldoff noted there are ordinances in place that provide parking provisions for medical offices and other health care facilities.

The Planning Board unanimously supported placing the zoning amendment on the March 11 election ballot.

“An office is an office no matter what goes on inside,” said board member Paul Pelletier. “What matters to me is the parking and the traffic.”

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