SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 26, 2012

Developer faces anxious Peabody residents

By Alan Burke Staff writer
The Salem News

---- — PEABODY — About 50 residents of South Peabody seemed braced for difficulties as they listened to developer David Solimine describe his Boulderwood project last night at City Hall.

An informational meeting, it served to underscore the worries over traffic and blasting that has had neighbors on edge since the 100-plus-home project was announced more than a decade ago.

Solimine outlined the progress already under way, with the contractor preparing the ground. He told residents that as many as 20 homes a year are expected to be completed, with the entire construction finished in anywhere from six to eight years. “The faster they sell, the faster we’ll build them.”

For the near term, it’s the noise and disruption of the construction process that worries some.

“Throughout the winter months,” Solimine said, “we’ll be drilling and blasting.” That activity, he added, is limited between the hours of 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

He also discussed ways that the contractor is trying to limit water runoff. “We want to keep the water from sheeting out onto the street.” He suggested that the coming storm will be a good test of their efforts.

For all that, the major concern continues to be Bartholomew Street, likely the primary means of getting to and from 100 homes with all their vehicles. It’s extremely narrow at some points and already clogged with traffic.

When Mayor Ted Bettencourt mentioned a possibility of limiting speeds on Bartholomew to 20 mph, it evoked hoots of laughter.

“Good luck with that,” someone shouted.

“It would help,” the mayor urged. “If it was enforced, it would help.”

Resident Michelle DeStefano worried about the safety of her child playing near such a busy road, suggesting, “They need to put a detail at both ends.”

Speaking afterward, Solimine raised the possibility of widening the street, which would involve taking land.

“I left a strip of land that would belong to the city to lighten the load,” he said.

Whether homes or properties should be taken — at some places, homes are mere feet from the street — should be left to the city and the neighbors to decide, Solimine said in answer to a question following the meeting.

Bettencourt, also responding after the meeting, said, “Widening the street is going to be very difficult.” As to the prospect of taking people’s land, he said, “I’m very reluctant to do that.”

The mayor was pleased that the meeting helped educate people. “I wanted to hear their concerns. ... I thought it was an excellent discussion. People made great points.”

Ward Councilor Barry Osborne, a longtime foe of the development, seemed resigned. “Obviously, it’s expected this is going to impact a lot of people. ... It’s too large a project for this small an area.”

On the other hand, he acknowledged the developer’s good faith in trying to limit the disruption. “You’ve got to respect Mr. Solimine for showing up.”