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Senior housing proposal criticized in Salem

SALEM — Neighbors are worried that a proposed senior housing project on Pleasant Street will have a negative impact on their homes.

Developers of the proposed 18-unit housing project recently presented conceptual plans for the project to the Planning Board. The project will come back before the board for a formal hearing.

The proposed site plan is on about 11 acres off Pleasant Street and would consist of 18 single-family detached condominiums for people over 55, according to Kurt Meisner, an engineer representing property owner Jake Swiniarski. Each unit would also have a two-car garage and a small driveway.

Trailer Home Drive is to the south of the property and Cornwell Court is to the north. Meisner said the property is within walking distance of the Mall at Rockingham Park. A portion of the property used to be a farm where horses were trained for Rockingham Park.

“Part of the reason we are proposing senior housing in here is the location of the property,” said Meisner. “It’s a terrific location for this particular type of property.”

Because the property is being proposed under the town’s senior housing overlay district, it would allow for more than three times as many units as would be allowed under the town’s residential district.

Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff said the 18 units would be allowed under the senior overlay district but suggested the Planning Board may someday want to look at just how much density it wants to allow for senior housing projects.

“Is it too much?” Moldoff asked. He said the board might want to consider allowing only double the density for senior housing projects instead of triple or quadruple the density.

Speaking specifically to the Pleasant Street proposal, Moldoff said it would need a special use permit to allow the housing units within 30 feet of the neighboring property lines. The town requires a 50-foot buffer zone.

Planning Board Chairman Robert Campbell said he would be hesitant to allow the houses within 30 feet of the property lines, especially given the high density of the project.

“I would make a 50-foot line and live with it,” said Campbell. “I have heartburn about it.”

Meisner said another version of the plan would have had the buffer zone, but would have the roadway for the project looping around the outside of the property, placing the road closer to neighboring homes.

“The 50-foot buffer zone is not for any development, it is for the location of the building,” said Meisner. “We felt it would be better for neighbors to have the travel way in the middle of the property.”

Trailer Home Drive resident Michael Frigon said he had concerns about the high density of the project and the potential for flooding of his road.

“I think it is too many units, and I think the proposal is inappropriate,” he said. “Mr. Meisner is underestimating the problem flooding will have on Trailer Home Drive.”

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