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April 25, 2013

Beverly drops housing project

Plan for affordable homes near train station was opposed by neighbors

BEVERLY — The Beverly Housing Authority has dropped its controversial plan to build affordable housing next to the Montserrat train station, a major victory for neighbors who vehemently opposed the plan.

The Housing Authority’s board of directors voted on April 11 to withdraw a court case against the Beverly Zoning Board, which had denied a building permit for the project.

Housing Authority Executive Director Kevin Ascolillo said yesterday that the board decided to drop the $1.27 million project because construction costs have gone up 15 percent due to delays in the court case.

The case was recently delayed for 45 days and would not have been heard until May or June, he said.

“We have sort of this perfect storm between labor rates, construction costs and pushing the court date out,” Ascolillo said. “We would have had to rebid the project, which is an added expense and time-consuming.”

The Housing Authority had planned to build two, two-family houses and renovate an existing single-family home at the corner of Spring and Essex streets, next to the Montserrat train station.

Neighbors objected, saying the lot is too small for three buildings and the additional housing would create traffic and safety problems in a busy neighborhood.

In September, neighbors appealed the issuance of the project’s building permit to the Zoning Board, which ruled in their favor by a 5-0 vote. The Housing Authority appealed the Zoning Board’s decision in Land Court, where the case has been sitting since November.

Essex Street resident John Rush said yesterday that neighbors are happy the project has been dropped but are still wary of the Housing Authority.

“We managed to catch up to them, but they were never willing to share their plans,” Rush said. “I’m glad the project they had planned is over, but we’re still not sure what they’re planning for that lot. Hopefully, they got the message that they need to engage the neighborhood.”

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