, Salem, MA

February 21, 2014

Willowdale neighbors blast proposed 12-unit subdivision

By Alan Burke
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — Water, noise, traffic, harm to wildlife and more water — these were the complaints of roughly 20 people appearing at a meeting of the Planning Board to oppose a proposed 12-unit subdivision off Willowdale Avenue.

“I’ve been doing this battle ... 30 years,” said Patty Nizwantowski, who predicted that construction would exacerbate an already chronic flooding problem. “I have two sump pumps. They’re going all the time.”

Developers Peter and Paul Decoulas hope to put 12 houses on 8.7 acres of land accessed mostly from Richartson Road, according to lawyer Jack Keilty. The fate of a 12th house, however, hinges on construction of another subdivision to be built on adjacent Willowdale, a paper street at the moment. Residents were startled to learn of it.

“I have never heard of that project,” said Nizwantowski, “and that was passed three years ago?”

Residents questioned the impact on the water table, with Richartson Road homeowner Brad Haskell telling the board he needed to dig down only a little more than a foot to hit water. Questioned by the board, Eastern Land Survey engineer John McDowell acknowledged that no borings have yet been done. He conceded there might be a high water table in some places and not others.

Of particular concern to residents is the site’s location. Willowdale is adjacent to a busy state highway that is capable of dramatically increasing traffic to the neighborhood. “My concern is they’re going to be accessing 114 from there,” Nizwantowski said.

“All of the trees are apparently going to come out of that area,” Arthur Hrubes said. He warned that this could worsen storm water runoff. “Richartson Road, they’re probably going to get more water than they ever had.” Making matters worse, the lose of vegetation will mean the loss of a buffer between the neighborhood and the racket rising from Route 114, he said.

“The noise level is going to be ridiculous with no trees,” said Haskell.

Ana Ortins of Felton Street cited the impact on wildlife. “We have herds of deer. Red tail hawks. Turkeys. Maybe some don’t care about them. ... But where will they go?” She also noted already existing problems obtaining water pressure in the area and wondered if they might be made worse with more homes drawing from the supply.

“We don’t need it,” said former school Superintendent Lou Perullo, who came with daughter-in-law Adriana and spoke on behalf of her and his son Gregory, abutters.

Marylinda Antoniello recalled her father fighting successfully to stop a plan to develop the same property 50 years earlier. “I grew up on 2 Hog Hill Road. And the wetland situation is way worse than they’re saying.”

Acting board Chairman Tom Bettencourt explained to the public that approval of the plan is a lengthy process, requiring the assent of several city boards and departments.

Alan Burke can be reached at