DANVERS — When Town Meeting members gather Feb. 10 in the Danvers High School auditorium, the big ticket item for the evening will be rezoning downtown Danvers.
As a zoning measure, it requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass. The Special Town Meeting is set to begin at 7:30 p.m.
The rezoning seeks to allow more housing downtown, along with a mix of shops and other commercial uses, where the existing zoning prohibits housing. Most of the homes in or near Danvers Square either predate zoning or were built using variances.
The new Downtown Corridor would have three sub-districts:
The Core District would encourage mid-scale commercial uses and denser residential development. These rules build on what is already in the downtown by allowing increased density limits (more units of housing) and certain commercial uses by right. The Core District would include Danvers Square and a section of both sides of Maple and High streets. It would be bounded by Hunt Street to the south, Hobart and Locust streets to the north, the intersection of Sylvan, Holten and Ash streets to the west, and roughly a block-wide stretch east of Maple Street.
The Live/Work District would offer a wide range of housing choices and small-scale commercial uses that fit in with the present neighborhood. This zone would be made up of several blocks around the intersection of Cherry and Putnam streets.
The High Street corridor rezoning would include both sides of High Street and run south of Porter Street to Route 128. It's meant to encourage commercial development in what is an Industrial-1 zoning district dominated by banks, gas stations, a shopping plaza, restaurants, an appliance store, a liquor store, and a truck dealership. The zoning would provide for more commercial uses, which would be allowed by right, while housing would require a special permit. Still, the zoning aims to make High Street, which sees heavy traffic, more attractive and walkable with a mix of uses.
"I think there's support for it," said selectmen Chairman Dan Bennett, noting a number of public meetings on the subject have been held and people have had plenty of opportunity to ask questions about the proposal.
He said he hasn't heard any serious objections in these forums, although he has seen some criticism and "alternate ideas" on the rezoning surface on social media.
"I'm sure there will be discussion and questions (on Monday)," he said, but added that he still expected enough support for it to pass.
More information on the proposed rezoning can be found at www.danversma.gov/downtown-corridor-rezoning.
Other items on the agenda Monday night include payment of two unpaid bills totaling less than $500, budget transfers of $30,000, a request to spend about $90,000 on public works projects — subject to state reimbursement — and a land swap.
The last item is also a housekeeping matter, according to Bennett. The proposal is for the Danvers Historical Society and the town to exchange four parcels of land between Ingersoll and Forest streets — property that is part of the Glen Magna Estate and Endicott Park.
Bennett said Town Meeting originally approved this swap a number of years ago, but the transfer was never executed. "It fell between the cracks," he said.
Specifically, the town owns the parking area used for Glen Magna while the historical society owns a portion of the meadow and activity field the town uses for recreational programming at Endicott Park. The land swap is to exchange those parcels.
The explanation of the warrant article from the Town Meeting booklet notes this swap was approved by Special Town Meeting in 1986, but never finalized. And then subsequent changes in state law regarding procurement rules and disposition of parkland prevented the completion of the deal.
To comply with the new laws, a home rule petition to the Legislature was drafted, which requires a vote from Town Meeting before sending it on to state lawmakers to complete the exchange.
The booklet, offering a further dive into local history, explains that this all traces back to the 1960s when the town and historical society first acquired the land that is now Endicott Park, but which was then slated to become single-family homes.
The town got the housing lots while the historical society got the parcel containing the mansion and the Tea House, but they later discovered that the town owned the parking area for Glen Magna while the society owned some of the meadow for Endicott Park.
The warrant article also seeks permission to create easements to ensure there is no loss of access for either party, as well as deed restrictions on the parcels the town is giving to the historical society to ensure the land is preserved and not developed later.
John Castelluccio may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org