, Salem, MA

April 26, 2013

Our view: A smart step back in Beverly

The Salem News

---- — The Beverly Housing Authority made the right call in abandoning its plan to build affordable housing on a small lot it owns next to the Montserrat train station.

No one can argue against the need for more affordable housing in Beverly or any other community on the North Shore; it remains one of the region’s biggest challenges.

That does not mean, however, that such projects are exempt from city zoning regulations. In this case, the Housing Authority planned to build two two-family houses and renovate an existing single-family home on a lot at the corner of Spring and Essex streets. One of the houses would have been designed for a disabled military veteran.

The Housing Authority wanted to count parking spaces at the adjacent, yet fenced-off MBTA parking lot as a way to get around zoning restrictions. Neighbors said the triangular lot owned by the Housing Authority was too small for the $1.27 million project, and the Zoning Board of Appeals wisely agreed, voting 5-0 late last year to revoke the building permit issued by the city.

The Housing Authority then took the zoning board to state Land Court before deciding to drop the issue, in part because building costs have gone up since the project was delayed.

Executive Director Kevin Ascolillo said the Housing Authority will now focus on its five-year plan to upgrade the 650 units that it currently manages throughout the city. While that’s an admirable goal, there’s no need to abandon plans to add more housing, especially for returning veterans. That housing should, like other residential building, follow zoning rules.