Housing agency greenlights 40B project despite objections by city

The Salem News | By John Castelluccio
April 26, 2017

PEABODY — The developers for a large apartment complex at the site of the Peabody Elks Lodge have support from the quasi-state agency tasked with determining feasibility of affordable housing projects, despite strenuous objections from the city.

“I was disappointed certainly (at the decision),” said Mayor Ted Bettencourt. “A project of that magnitude does not fit in that neighborhood.”

MassHousing awarded a project eligibility letter to Larkin Real Estate Group, Inc. on March 21. The letter, which is valid for two years, allows the developers to proceed with local permitting in the form of a comprehensive permit that would be issued by the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

The proposal is for 80 units — 72 apartments in a five-story building with an additional eight units as townhouses — on the Elks property at 40 Oak St. All of the units will be rentals, and 25 percent (20 units) will be deemed affordable under state and federal guidelines.

The development is called the Residences at O’Shea Field.

City officials had sharply criticized the plan to MassHousing, saying it was retaliation by the developers who, sensing they would not receive necessary city approvals for a much smaller condo development at the site, withdrew that plan before it could be rejected and sought to build under the state’s affordable housing law (Chapter 40B) instead.

Two big issues are density and flooding around the existing site, which is almost entirely situated in an established FEMA flood plain, according to the city.

These issues give rise to public safety concerns at adding exponentially more residents in a flood zone, as well as traffic volume and adequate access to the property.

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