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Plans for Salem senior housing project reduced

SALEM — A 16-unit senior housing project off Pleasant Street has cleared one hurdle with the planning board after revised plans that cut the number of units were presented this week.

The board has granted a conditional use permit allowing the houses to be within 30 feet of the 11-acre site’s property line. Under the town’s zoning regulations, a 50-foot buffer zone is required without the conditional use permit.

The planning board saw conceptual plans for the project proposed by John Swiniarski in January. At that time, project engineer Kurt Meisner said the plan was for 18 individual housing units for people 55 and over.

Several planning board members had concerns about the project density. Nearby residents from Cromwell Court also had concerns about a road from the development onto Cromwell Court.

The revised plans presented this week addressed those two issues, cutting the number of units to 16 and putting a locked emergency gate preventing traffic onto Cromwell Court.

However, even with those changes, board members still raised some concerns about the project density and the affordable housing aspect of the project.

Under the town’s affordable housing guidelines, the developer would either have to set aside two units as affordable or pay into the town’s affordable housing trust fund.

Meisner said the developer plans to pay into the trust fund rather than going through the complicated process of building the units. With the trust fund, Meisner said the town can then address its affordable housing needs in a more direct manner.

Several board members said they would like to see more information about how the affordable housing funds are used and said the town might be better served if the developer constructs the affordable units for the project.

“The need for (affordable) housing is now,” said board member Phyllis O’Grady. “I’d like to see a few more units designated as affordable.”

O’Grady also voted against granting the conditional use permit for the setbacks, stating she would like to see the project redesigned to allow for the 50-foot setbacks.

Meisner said there were conceptual plans that show a 50-foot setback, but that it would require a loop road running within eight feet of the property line.

Meisner also noted that the developer has already cut two units from what was originally planned for the project.

If more units were cut, Meisner said the cost of the remaining units would increase.

“We need a certain amount of density to make this infrastructure work,” he said.

The planning board will continue discussions on the project, including the affordable housing aspect, at its next meeting on Tuesday, July 8.

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