Architecture Addressed At Manchester’s ZBA Hearing For The Sanctuary


The Manchester-By-The-Sea Zoning Board of Appeals spent much of Wednesday’s meeting discussing drawings of what the proposed Chapter 40B housing project would look like from School Street. 

Developer Geoffrey Engler is seeking a comprehensive Chapter 40B permit from the ZBA for his proposed 136-unit apartment complex project, to be known as The Sanctuary at Manchester-By-The-Sea.  The project would be located off School Street, atop Shingle Place Hill, opposite the entrance of Atwater Avenue. 

The drawings, submitted by EMBARC, a Boston-based architectural firm working for Engler, and ones submitted by the Manchester Essex Conservation Trust, a group opposed to the project, emphasized different aspects of the project. 

EMBARC’s drawing, which Engler said was based on actual photos, shows three levels of retaining walls with shrubs and bushes atop each wall, an open “meadow” with more landscaping in front of the three-story white building on top of the hill.  

The MECT’s drawing seems to show retaining walls that are larger, no landscaping features between the street and the building and more of the building exposed to view from the street, including part of the left wing. 

Cliff Boehmer of Davis Square Architects said that both drawings could be used as tools to help shape the appearance of the building. 

“This is not a fully designed project,” said Boehmer. “But I hope, that engaging with the development team to make sure at the end of the day (when the project is completely designed) that everybody is happy with those views.”  

Patrice Murphy, the executive director of MECT, refused to say who had created the drawings submitted by MECT.   She presented several other drawings of the project, as seen from farther north on South Street, from the parking lot of the conversation area as well as from paths in the conservation area. 

Engler said the MECT drawings took “creative liberties in what they are showing.”  

ZBA Chair Sarah Mellish said that one of the things that stood out for her was how white the buildings were. 

Engler said that the building can be whatever color the board liked, but that the Select Board had pushed for white buildings when Engler talked to that board last year and had drawings of the buildings in gray. 

“We recognize that this building is large for Manchester-By-The-Sea, we do,” said Engler. “But for a 136-unit, 3½ story building, it is about unvisible (sic) for most of Manchester-By-The-Sea.” 

Leslie Fanger, an architect for SLV, said that the retaining walls would use granite-style blocks but they were open to what size and type of blocks that would be used.  She also said that the drawing showed the shrubs and bushes as they would be when first planted.  As they matured, they would reduce the view from the street.  

She also said that the meadow would be planted with meadow grass for a natural feel. 

“There is a very narrow gap that allows a view into the site, particularly when you are driving southwest on School Street,” said Fanger. 

 “These renderings just reaffirm that the scale of this project and how there is nothing like that in our town,” said ZBA member John Binieris 

Several residents also spoke out against the project. 

Karen Gertsch of Essex said, “A 40B should fit in with the neighborhood in some way, but I don’t see this fitting in with this neighborhood.”  

George Davis of Woodholm Rd. in Manchester said that the Chapter 40B handbook calls for the site to be appropriate for the project. “This proposed development in no way satisfies those criteria,” said Davis. 

Matt Plum, president of MECT and an Essex resident, said “this structure is both grossly out of keeping and scale with other buildings in Manchester ... save perhaps the schools.” 

Sarah Pierce of 9 Friend St. in Manchester said, “Geoffrey Engler continues to tell us that we are not going to be able to have a finished plan with the timeframe he’s allotting the town and that is super concerning.” 

Mory Creighton, 37 Prospect St. in Manchester, said it wasn’t right for the SLV project to get to connect to the town’s sewer when there are many streets and neighborhoods in town that have been waiting for years to connect to the sewer.  

Environment issues 

While it was decided to push off a full discussion of the environmental issues of the project until the wildlife study is completed, Stacy Minihan of Beals and Thomas did talk about a few areas with outstanding issues, including: 

·      Plans for the sidewalk from the building to School Street. 

·      Testing the additional vernal pool that was located. 

·      How a ledge above wetland areas would be removed without disturbing the wetlands? 

·      Why a baseline elevation study is not needed? 

The ZBA will meet next on May 25 to discuss civil engineering and possible waivers and conditions for the project concerning traffic and safety.

zoning board of appeals, sarah pierce, matt plum, leslie fanger, patrice murphy, karen gertsch, sarah mellish, john binieris, mory creighton, cliff boehmer, stacy minihan, geoffrey engler, manchester essex conservation trust, george davis, embarc