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Board comfortable with Workforce Housing proposal

SALEM — The Planning Board has given its initial support for a developer to move forward with an eight-unit, single family Workforce Housing subdivision project on School Street.

While the Planning Board gave its support to the proposed project by Genesis Builders coming before it as a Workforce Housing project, the subdivision will still need several conditional use permits, including one for the total lot size of the project.

Under the states Workforce Housing ordinance, developers are allowed to develop 30 percent more housing units on a lot if those units fall under the workforce guidelines dictating the price of the units and the income levels of those purchasing the units.

Genesis Builders initially came before the Planning Board last year with a conceptual plan for the subdivision. This week, representatives from the developer went before the board to determine if it supported the proposal as a Workforce Housing Development rather than a conventional subdivision.Under the town’s zoning ordinance, the developer could develop six lots on the 4.75-acre property without conditional use permits.

“The Workforce Housing ordinance gives them a density bonus of two lots,” said town Planning Director Ross Moldoff.

Although the Planning Board unanimously consented to have the developers move forward with the project under the workforce ordinance, Moldoff said there are still a number of issues that need to be discussed and deliberated before the project becomes a reality.

“One of the Workforce Housing ordinance requirements is that you need a five-acre lot to use it,” said Moldoff. “They have less than that and asked for a waiver.”

Moldoff also noted that when the conceptual plan was brought forward last year, there was concern from some neighbors that the project would cause drainage and traffic issues in the neighborhood.

Mark Gross of MHF Design, representing Genesis Builders, said that if the project went forward as a conventional subdivision as allowed by right, there would still be drainage and traffic issues that would need to be addressed.

Gross also noted that the houses and housing lots would be of a similar size and character of those in the neighborhood. In addition, the two workforce housing units would be the same size and style as the six houses that wouldn’t fall under the ordinance.

“One of the biggest premises of Workforce Housing is that the lots and the houses are similar to the surrounding neighborhood, and we are comfortable that we meet that criteria,” said Gross.

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