Zoning board approves apartment project

Housing law left opponents with little recourse

Eagle Tribune | By Lisa Kashinsky
April 11, 2017

METHUEN — Linda Bailey spent months going to Zoning Board of Appeals meetings to fight against a proposed apartment building that would be erected within view of her Magna Road home. But somewhere along the way, she said, she realized she was fighting a losing battle.

The residential building project, known as Hill’s Farm, falls under the state’s Chapter 40B law, which states that 10 percent of a municipality’s housing stock must be deemed affordable. Methuen hasn’t yet met that threshold. Failing to meet the threshold means developers have an easier time pushing projects that include affordable units through local zoning boards

It’s something that the Zoning Board made clear to residents each time they came to the hourslong meetings on the project that began in July. But still, a few dozen came faithfully, trying to make their voices heard about concerns that have ranged from increased traffic to safety, to decreased property values and to the impact on the school district.

That fight came to an end on Tuesday, at least for now, when the four members of the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to approve the Hill’s Farm project, subject to dozens of waivers and 101 conditions.

Bailey was “discouraged” by the decision. Another resident who frequently came to meetings, David Bartlett, was “utterly disgusted.”

For Bailey, who’s lived in the abutting neighborhood for years and raised her family there, it seemed like the city was ignoring longtime residents in its quest to meet state housing criteria.

“The concern is for low-income (housing); it’s not for the existing, taxpaying citizens of their city,” she said.

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