Social Club homes could be built next year

Zoning Board OKs 8-unit project in Salem’s Ward 2

The Salem News | By Dustin Luca
December 29, 2016

SALEM — A contentious project on the old site of the Ward II Social Club could see construction begin in 2017, though several state and city approvals remain.

The proposal cleared its first hurdle last week, when the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to allow a five-building, eight-unit residential project on 1-3 East Collins St.

The property was initially bought in 2015 and saved from a foreclosure auction. Back then, buyer and local developer Michael Meyer proposed 28 residential units be built there.

But the proposal triggered immediate neighborhood opposition, which continued even after Meyer more recently reduced the plan to eight units and addressed the Zoning Board’s numerous concerns.

“The board felt that we had gotten the density down to a point that it was in harmony with the neighborhood there,” said attorney Scott Grover, representing Meyer. “It was down to eight units, and more importantly it was in a combination of one- and two-family buildings that were more appropriate for that neighborhood than the large, multi-family buildings.”

Grover said the project currently includes three duplexes on the site, as well as two single-unit homes.

The buildings are also oriented to maximize access to Collins Cove, which runs immediately behind the property, the attorney said.

The Zoning Board approval for the project is perhaps the most critical, Grover said, but it is by no means the only one. A long road of review lies ahead for the project, beginning with the Planning Board.

“They’ll get more involved with the layout of the site — the landscaping, the exterior appearance of the buildings, the public access we’ll provide,” Grover said. “That’s one of the conditions we proposed at the Board of Appeals, that we permit public access at a location the Planning Board determines is appropriate.”

Then there’s Conservation Commission approval, due to the fact that the site is on the water and proposed partially on filled tidal lands, according to Grover.

The tidal lands portion of the property will also trigger review under the state’s Public Waterfront Act, or Chapter 91 for short.

The Chapter 91 review could take about a year, Grover said. Meanwhile, construction could begin elsewhere midway into 2017.

“If he can get a couple of those buildings going while the Chapter 91 process is in progress, then you keep the project rolling,” he said.

The other approvals could fall in line by late spring into early summer, Grover said, if everything goes smoothly for the project.

None of the units will be classified as affordable housing. Grover described them as “moderately priced homes to begin with.”

Meyer, the property owner, also holds a prior liquor license issued to the club, which Grover said has no functional use in the new development plans. It’s unclear whether the license could be sold or if it will just expire.

After being built in 1948 as “an everlasting brotherhood,” the Ward 2 Social Club had more than 400 members when it celebrated its diamond anniversary in 2008. But by 2011, the club was in financial trouble. It had closed in the following years. Meyer bought the site in June 2015, days ahead of it going up for foreclosure auction.

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