MBTA Zoning Task Force plans second community forum for April 27


Residents of Manchester-by-the-Sea will get another chance to learn about the MBTA zoning requirements and ask questions of the Task Force at a community forum on Saturday, April 27.

The forum will take place at Manchester Essex High School from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.  Members of the Task Force will be on hand to talk with the public about the areas they are currently considering for the overlay zoning and what those changes may mean to residents.

The Task Force, in a joint meeting with the Planning Board on April 18, focused on five areas of town for the state required MBTA zoning.  Each of those areas has been discussed at past meetings, but they were broken down in a slightly different way.

Previously, the first district ran from Newport Park, down Pine Street, across Morse Court and Elm Street to the Powder House apartments.  Town Planner Marc Resnick presented different dimensional standards for this district with one set of standards for the Newport Park area and Powder House apartments and condos, and another set of standards for the rest of the district. 

Those standards for Pine Street, Morse Court and Elm Street would mostly be the same as its current zoning on setbacks and parking.  The height restrictions would stay at 2.5 stories.  But it would allow three units to be built on any lot of 6,000 square feet or more, with a requirement of 2,000 square feet for any unit.  A maximum of five units could be built, but that would require a lot of at least 10,000 square feet. 

For Newport Park and Powder House Lane, the only single change would be in the height restriction, allowing four-story buildings.

The Task Force also considered splitting in half a second district, the one from Summer and Beach streets to the Valentine property on Tappan Street.  The current modelling would allow three-story buildings and not place a cap on this number of units on a lot. 

But some thought that the properties on Sea and Tappan streets should have greater setbacks and be limited to 2.5 stories.  Resnick said he would look at the modelling for that to see if it affected the numbers required by the state. 

The standards for the Allen Street to Lincoln Street district would mostly be the same as they are now.

The final district is in the Limited Commercial District, the current “Cape Ann Storage” facility on Beaver Dam Road.  It is 7.6 acres in size.  The modeling would allow 110 units or 14.5 units per acre.  Buildings would be allowed to be five stories but would have 50-foot setbacks on all sides and allow for two parking spaces per unit.

Because there are no units currently in that district, all 110 units would be new to the town. 

Task Force member Michael Pratt asked if similar numbers were available to the other districts. Resnick provided numbers for all areas except the Pine Street to Elm Street district.

For the other districts, the numbers are:

  • Beach St. to Valentine: currently 46 units; the overlay would allow for 31 more, or a total of 77.
  • Allen St. To Lincoln St.: currently 32 units; the overlay would allow for 43 more, or a total of 75.
  • Newport Park and Powder House: currently 85 units; the overlay would allow for 97 more, or a total of 182.

Resnick said the modelling for the Pine Street to Elm Street district would allow for 142 units, but he didn’t know the current number of units.  He would provide that number to the Task Force as soon as he got it.

The five districts total 40.3 acres (the state requires the town to rezone 37 acres), would provide for 568 units (the state requires 559 units) and would have an average density of 15.2 units per acres (the state requires at least 15 units per acres on average).     

Planning Board member Mary Foley asked what the probability was that developers would seek to take advantage of the overlay zoning.    

Resnick said he was looking to see if there was funding available for three studies, including one concerning the probability of developments.  The other two would focus on including a requirement for 20 percent of the units to be listed as affordable and one on the economic impact the zoning changes would have on the town.  Resnick said he had prices for two of the three studies and would be checking with Town Administrator Greg Federspiel about paying for the studies.

The Task Force is still considering what design guidelines it wants to include as part of the overlay zoning.

The death of Planning Board Chairman Ron Mastrogiacomo earlier this month has required some rescheduling on the board’s part.  Planning Board Vice Chairman Sarah Creighton said that the hearing for Cell Signaling’s application for a comprehensive permit to build a research-and-development laboratory off Atwater Avenue would start over on May 28. 

Creighton said the Planning Board would continue to meet with the Task Force in joint Thursday meetings until a plan is sent to the state.  She added that the Planning Board would hold Monday meetings for Planning Board-only matters.