Access A Key Concern at SLV Project


The Manchester-By-The-Sea's Zoning Board of Appeals came up with a list of items that the board wants more information about from developer Geoffrey Engler at Wednesday night’s meeting. 

Engler of SLV School St. LLC is seeking a comprehensive permit for the project known as The Sanctuary at Manchester-by-the-Sea through the state’s Chapter 40B provisions, which allows the developer to bypass many local regulations. The project would include 136 apartments, 34 of which would be affordable housing, on a parcel of land off School Street at Shingle Hill.

More than 100 residents attended the meeting via Zoom.  

During the three-hour meeting, the ZBA discussed many issues about the proposal, but much of time was spent on access to the site.  The proposal by Engler includes a single entryway off School Street, wrapping around the proposed building.  It would dead-end in a circle at the front of the property, but not connecting with entry driveway. 

“The site driveway is far longer than what the bylaws require,” said Greg Lucas of Environmental Partners, which conducted the peer review on traffic and safety for the ZBA. 

“I think the accessibility issue needs to be addressed,” said David Black of the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust. 

Luke Legere, an attorney for Citizens Initiative For Manchester Affordable Housing, said that it is typical for project of this size to require a second access point.  

Gina Beinecke, a Manchester resident of 3 Masconomo St. said that the only reason there wasn’t a second access point with this project is that the developer is “trying to shoehorn it into a hillside.” 

Daniel Hill, the attorney for the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust questioned what would happen if there was an obstruction in the roadway – a car accident or a fallen tree – that prevented emergency vehicles from reaching the building? 

Manchester Fire Chief Jason Cleary disputed many of the suggestions that a single access road made the project unsafe.

“This will be an extremely safe building,” said Chief Cleary, who added there would be no trees or wires that could cause a blockage to the entryway.  

In response to the suggestion that people in cars fleeing during a fire would block the driveway, the chief said he has “never seen that … there are no facts to support that.”  Rather, he said, people wait outside the building, waiting to get back in to check if there was any damage to their apartment. 

Engler as much as said a required second road into the project would be a breaking point. 

“We just can’t provide it,” said Engler. “This will be the safest building in town. We’ve worked very hard on this, but we just can’t fit it in.” 


Another area that provoked a lot of discussion was the number of parking spaces the proposal included.  While the ZBA members raised some questions about the number of parking spaces for the tenants, it was the number of parking spaces for visitors that provoked more discussion. 

16 spaces are part of the plan for visitors.  Several members said that seemed very low for 136 apartments.  Member John Binieris said that in the summer, many tenants would have friends visiting for trips to the beach. 

Member Sean Zahn added with the distance to the commuter rail station, most families would need a car or two for commuting.  Other members asked if parking along the entry road would be allowed. 

Engler said that more parking for visitors could be found and that a restriction on “no parking” along the entry road would be OK.


Both Lucas and Black noted that a sidewalk from the project to School Street was not included as part of the proposal.  Several ZBA members said an ADA compliant sidewalk was required by the state.  

In addition, several members said that the Board of Selectmen during its meeting on Monday night, reiterated that they would approve a sidewalk from the Route 128 intersection to the entryway of any housing project approved north of the highway. 

Engler said he would discuss the possibility of a sidewalk from the project to School Street with members of his team and fill the board in on a decision in the coming weeks.  

However, Engler said he expected that the town would face opposition from environmental groups if it tried to build a sidewalk along School Street. 

Other areas of concern 

The other issues that the ZBA wanted more information from Engler and his team were: 

    * An analysis of summertime traffic at the School Street-Route 128 intersection. 

    * An analysis of what affect the project may have on the parking at the commuter rail station and what mitigation might be needed to address those problems. 

    * An analysis of what improvements or changes may be needed at the School Street-Route 128 interchange and where the funding for those changes would be coming from. 

     * A comparison of the number of parking spaces at the proposed project with similar other projects that have already been built. 

     * An explanation for the need of the length of the access road. 

     * To see if motion-activated lights would be needed on School Street and who would pay for them. 

Other matters 

The board chose Davis Square Architects to provide the Architectural peer review.  It will cost $11,000. 

The hearing was continued until the next meeting of the board on March 9 at 7 p.m.  Normally the board would have met on Feb. 23, but because that is school vacation week and several members of the board, along with Engler, said it would be difficult for them to attend that night, the board chose March 9 instead.