, Salem, MA

Local News

May 23, 2013

Whipple Hill neighbors want town's help in preserving Danvers woodland

DANVERS — More than a dozen residents are rallying to “Save Whipple Hill,” fearing it is about to be developed.

The wooded hill off Hobart Street is part of a 27.9-acre parcel that includes St. Mary of the Annunciation Cemetery. About half the land is used for the cemetery, and the rest is untouched. Residents have written to the Archdiocese of Boston hoping to forestall any development, and on Tuesday night the neighbors showed up at the selectmen’s meeting asking for help.

However, town officials say no plans have been filed to subdivide the land or build homes there. The only thing the town has before it is an engineering plan showing where the wetlands are located. The wetlands map is scheduled to go before the Conservation Commission for a public hearing tonight at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The map does not show a plan for house lots, only the existing wetland conditions, but Senior Planner Kate Day said a wetlands delineation is usually the first step in a development proposal.

Nancy McCann, a Danvers attorney who is representing St. Mary’s, was unavailable for comment yesterday, her office said.

Bayberry Road resident Sally Connolly told selectmen Tuesday night that neighbors are concerned about the loss of the natural beauty of the woods, increased traffic and a new burden on town services and schools. They also worry that new homes will worsen water problems for existing homeowners downhill, given there is a brook that runs through the property.

“Whipple Hill should stay green,” Connolly said. “Please make saving Whipple Hill a priority.”

The church parish property is assessed in town records at $525,300. Much of the lowlands to the east of the hill have homes on them. The hill commands views of Brooksby Farm in Peabody in the distance.

“What they are doing now is their due diligence,” said Susan Fletcher, assistant director of Planning and Human Services, who said the land has not been sold, but such steps are usually taken to figure out what a piece of property is worth. The Conservation Commission will determine the extent of the wetlands where it has jurisdiction, Town Manager Wayne Marquis said. The board will conduct a site visit to see if the map is accurate.

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