Architectural Elements Of 40B Project Debated


Cliff Boehmer, an architect for Davis Square Architects, told the Manchester-by-the-Sea Zoning Board of Appeals several times that in his analysis, the site for The Sanctuary, 136-unit apartment complex, was “not optimal.” 

Developer Geoffrey Engler of SLV School St. LLC is seeking a comprehensive permit from the ZBA under the state’s Chapter 40B laws for the apartment complex, which is proposed for off School Street, opposite the entrance of Atwater Avenue. 

Boehmer presented an overview of his Architectural peer review at the ZBA’s meeting on Monday night. 

“I consider my role largely to be to work to help get the best possible fit for that development,” said Boehmer. “A good fit works because that is what ensures … the long-term sustainability of any development.” 

He said the key to being “a good fit” was that it fit in with the surrounding development, was appreciated by neighbors and meets the needs of its occupants. 

This project “doesn’t fit in with a pattern of development,” said Boehmer, ‘because there isn’t much of a pattern of development,” since most of the surrounding land is undeveloped. 

“I really don’t know what this project is going to look like,” said Bohmer. He said the materials provided by Engler were not sufficient to determine if the project could be seen from Route 128 or even from School Street. 

He said the lack of information about the amount of dirt and rock that will be removed from the top of the hill that the project will sit on and how much of the land will be cleared of its current trees and other vegetation make those determinations difficult. 

Boehmer said he was troubled by the lack of outdoor space for children to play. He also suggested that in addition to an ADA compliant walkway from the building to School Street, that a walking path and a bike path to the street be considered. 

Boehmer suggested that if it was difficult to fit in these paths, that allowing the project to be built another story higher might allow Engler to reduce the footprint of the building, leaving more space outside.  

“I urge the board to push very hard to get an accurate representation of this project,” said Boehmer. 

Engler said that the submitted material was not “woefully inadequate.” But he said that, since his company had received Boehmer’s peer review, they had been working to provide answers to his questions. “The submittal that we provided … we had all the things that are customarily provided as the part of a 40B project,” said Engler. “That being said .. I’m certain we can respond in a thorough and meaningful way that will give” everyone “perspectives that they want to see.” 

Engler agreed to have those architectural updates early enough so that Boehmer and the board will be able to discuss them at the May 11 meeting. But before that, the ZBA will tackle the updates to the environmental and engineering peer reviews on April 13, which may carry over to the April 27 meeting. Also at the April 27 meeting, the ZBA will deal with a proposal that Engler recently submitted, seeking to have the project connect to the town’s sewer system. (Details of these changes can be found on the town’s website.) 

ZBA Chairman Sarah Mellish said that the board would only have three additional meetings – May 25 and two in June – before they would have to close the public hearing on the 40B project. At that point, she said, the board has 40 days to vote on the comprehensive permit and write up its decision.

geoffrey engler, bohmer, architect, boehmer, massachusetts law, massachusetts comprehensive permit act: chapter 40b, jeff pope c liff boehmer, slv school st. llc, zoning board of appeals