, Salem, MA

October 24, 2012

Beverly zoning board rejects affordable housing proposal near Montserrat station

Bethany Bray
The Salem News

BEVERLY — The Zoning Board of Appeals sided last night with neighbors opposed to the Beverly Housing Authority’s plans to build two affordable-housing units near the Montserrat train station.

Matthew Leeds, who lives across the street from the BHA site, had filed an appeal against the building permit that the city’s building inspector had already issued for the project.

The five-member board voted unanimously last night against upholding the project’s building permit.

The housing authority wants to build two, two-story homes on a triangular shape of land at the corner of Essex and Spring streets, next to the Montserrat train station parking lot.

The Montserrat Neighborhood Group has organized opposition to the project, questioning whether the lot has enough square footage to meet zoning requirements.

After lengthy deliberation, the zoning board sided with the neighbors’ concerns last night.

“I just think to lessen the density here makes sense,” Chairwoman Day Ann Kelley said. “I think there must be another solution.”

Roughly 100 people packed last night’s meeting to standing-room-only. The meeting stretched close to four hours, and the board voted on the Montserrat project at 10:45 p.m., just before The Salem News’ deadline.

“When you have a room full of people that have a problem with this, it seems there could be another way of looking at it,” ZBA member Jane Brusca said. “It seems it’s being squeezed in here.”

BHA has been planning the Montserrat project since 2008. Thomas Alexander, attorney for the Beverly Housing Authority, said last night that the project needs to have the proposed number of units “to make economic sense” and to satisfy the requirements of several grants given to the project.

Alexander also argued that the project does meet the zoning requirements.

With last night’s ZBA vote, the housing authority’s next step would be to take the project, as is, to Land Court or make changes to the project and come back for city approval.

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