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Controversial housing plan in Beverly shot down by Zoning Board of Appeals

Posted by Ryan Mooney  October 25, 2012 12:34 PM

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The Zoning Board of Appeals has stopped a planned affordable housing development by the Beverly Housing Authority after residents of the Montserrat neighborhood filed an appeal to have the building permit revoked.

The Housing Authority (BHA), which owns the land, was trying to have the project built as-of-right, but a group of neighbors objected, saying that the parcel was too small for the proposed development, and that the BHA was using a deal with the MBTA to skirt local zoning laws.

The roughly $1.2 million project would have added four units of affordable housing in two buildings to the plot abutting the Montserrat MBTA station parking lot, and repair a single-family affordable home already on the site.

The parcel, which is bordered by Spring and Essex streets, is about 20,000-square-feet, with about 4,000-square-feet lying on the other side of a fence where the train station parking lot has space for about 14 vehicles currently being used by the MBTA. The BHA had planned to keep the fence in place, use four of the spaces for excess resident parking, and give the other 10 spaces back to the MBTA at no cost.

Neighbors cried foul, and filed an appeal with the Zoning Board in September, which was upheld unanimously on Tuesday night.

Kevin Ascolillo, executive director of the BHA, contends that the parcel of land is not too small for what the BHA wants to do. If the BHA wants to attempt to rekindle the project, its next course of action would be to appear before the state's Land Court.

"I think that the Housing Authority presented a very good case," Ascolillo said. "We believe that we have the square footage to do what we want to do, but we're going to wait to see the written opinion of the Zoning Board before we decide to do next, if we do anything at all. Until I see that, there's really not much I can say. I need to see the decision itself."

John Hall, a resident of Colon Street who helped lead the charge against the development, feels that the Zoning Board made the right call, and that the unanimous decision to side with the neighbors will open the eyes of the BHA, and prevent it from taking any further action.

"We're hoping that [the BHA] will realize that there's huge objections to this, and that they see the problems with the way it was proposed," Hall said.

Ryan Mooney can be reached at globe.mooney@yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @mooney_ryan.

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