, Salem, MA

November 30, 2012

Affordable-housing plan heads to court


---- — BEVERLY — The battle over the Beverly Housing Authority’s attempt to build two homes next to the Montserrat train station has ended up in court.

The Housing Authority last week filed an appeal in Massachusetts Land Court seeking to overturn a decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals that blocked the plan.

The zoning board revoked the Housing Authority’s building permit on Oct. 23, ruling that the lot was too small to accommodate two new buildings, as well as the one-family home now on the site.

In its court appeal, the Housing Authority said the zoning board does not have the authority to revoke the building permit that was issued by the city’s building inspector. The Housing Authority also said neighbors do not have standing “as an aggrieved person” to dispute the permit.

The plan in question is a $1.27 million affordable housing project, calling for construction of two, two-family houses and renovations to the existing single-family home at the corner of Spring and Essex streets, next to the Montserrat train station. Officials say the homes will provide housing for three families and for a disabled military veteran.

Neighbors have objected to the project, saying the lot is too small for three buildings and would create traffic and safety problems in a busy neighborhood. They have accused the Housing Authority of “deceptive methods” and “manipulation” of the zoning laws. A total of 166 residents signed a petition against the plan.

Neighbors appealed the issuance of the building permit to the zoning board, which ruled in their favor by a 5-0 vote. In its decision, the board questioned whether the lot size met zoning requirements and whether the Housing Authority could include MBTA parking spaces as part of the lot. A fence separates the housing lot from the train station parking lot.

The Beverly Housing Authority acquired the housing lot in 2002 from the MBTA for a nominal $10 fee when the MBTA said it no longer needed it.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or