, Salem, MA

July 26, 2013

Conditions set for power plant

Salem: Planning Board lists requirements for redevelopment

By Bethany Bray

---- — Plans to redevelop the Salem Harbor Station power plant cleared a major hurdle last night as the Planning Board approved a lengthy, detailed list of conditions for the project.

The board’s unanimous, 9-0 vote, taken at the end of a three-hour, well-attended session, was met with applause.

Salem Harbor Station will cease operation in June 2014. New Jersey-based Footprint Power has filed plans to build a natural-gas power plant, which is slated to open in June 2016.

The 62-acre site is a deep-water port next to the city’s ferry landing; it has been a coal-burning power plant since the 1950s.

Last night’s Planning Board meeting was the culmination of numerous public hearings held on the proposed power plant redevelopment. Board Member Tim Ready noted that many of the conditions approved last night were born out of residents’ comments and suggestions at previous public meetings.

The bulk of last night’s session was spent combing through a lengthy, meticulous list of conditions — everything from requiring that construction vehicles be hosed down before leaving the property (to minimize dust) to setting up several points-of-contact for residents to air concerns and comments during construction.

Footprint will be required to make plans for the project’s noise impact, stormwater and soil management, emergency-vehicle access, a designated truck route for construction deliveries, site security, lighting and a slate of other aspects.

The city has asked that a 6-foot-high steel fence be erected around the property during construction. At the urging of Planning Board Member Kirt Rieder, the fence will need to be a fine mesh, which makes it unable to be climbed.

Also among the conditions is the requirement that local fire and police conduct an emergency drill at the site before it opens and once a year after it opens.

Ward 1 City Councilor Robert McCarthy thanked the Planning Board for its work on the issue, as well as the many residents who had given input at public meetings.

“A lot of thought and effort” had been put into the issue, from all sides, McCarthy said.

“This is one of Salem’s largest redevelopments in its history,” he said. “It’s important we get it right.”

In addition to local boards, the redevelopment plans must also pass muster at the state level.

In May, Salem’s Historical Commission approved a request by Salem Harbor Station to demolish seven oil tanks and a 250-foot smokestack. Footprint Power had asked for a waiver of the city’s demolition delay ordinance so it can begin work this summer.

The company had to go before the Historical Commission because seven of its steel tanks and a brick chimney are more than 50 years old, which triggers a review of a demolition request. In all, the plant plans to remove 11 oil tanks, but four are newer and don’t require board approval.

In addition to McCarthy, City Councilors William Legault, Josh Turiel, Jerry Ryan and Thomas Furey sat in on last night’s Planning Board meeting.

Bethany Bray can be reached at and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.