PEABODY — After a heated hearing on Zoom that lasted more than two hours Thursday night, the City Council voted 9-2 to grant a special permit to pave the way for a three-story, 38-unit condo development at 40-42 Endicott St.
The multi-family housing project, proposed by Peabody developer Pat Todisco, of Todisco Properties LLC, would replace two dilapidated commercial buildings spanning two properties that total about three-quarters of an acre.
"You look at that building as it is constituted right now," said Council President Tom Rossignoll, "that is a dilapidated, contaminated, fire-trap, rat-infested building that, in my opinion, is about to fall down. I think this type of project in that area will do nothing but raise the property value and enhance the overall aesthetic."
Councilor-at-large Anne Manning-Martin and Ward 5 Councilor Joel Saslaw voted 'no.'
The approval was granted despite concerns from some councilors and neighbors about density and traffic in an already congested neighborhood. But a majority saw the project as a way to clean up an eyesore with a local developer, who has a good track record in the city, willing to take on the project.
However, the 'yes' vote came layered with a long list of conditions from Ward 2 Councilor Peter McGinn. It also still faces approvals from other city boards and commissions.
As a motion to vote was being formed, Manning-Martin objected to McGinn reading from some late communications from city departments as he tried to craft conditions on the project, stating a violation of council rules. She said if he read the documents into record, it would be the same as accepting them. So McGinn rephrased his conditions, conveying technical concerns from the city's police, fire, health and public services departments regarding traffic, demolition and site plan review.
McGinn was asked to make these conditions by Ward 3 Councilor James Moutsoulas, who represents the ward where the project is proposed. Some councilors pointed out Moutsoulas is normally against development in Ward 3.
Moutsoulas backed the project, he said, because it was unlikely another developer would spend millions to clean up a property just to build a few single-family homes.
Manning-Martin said the condo building's design, a three-story building with a flat roof, made it look like an old shoe factory in Haverhill. She suggested a redesign and reduction in units might appease the neighborhood.
Already, Todisco had acquiesced to neighbors' concerns by removing the top floor and reducing the number of condos from 42 to 38, and to reduce the number of stories from four to three.
"I cannot see, if we don't take action on this now, anything in the near future where we would have a developer that we have a background with that we can negotiate with," Councilor-at-large Ryan Melville said.
In correspondence to the council, 80 residents, including couples signing letters jointly, wrote, emailed or signed petitions in favor of the project. Many saw it as a way to revitalize the neighborhood. Many were business associates, neighbors, tenants, friends and acquaintances of Todisco. Former City Councilor Dave Gamache wrote it was "a good fit for the neighborhood for many reasons."
About 14 neighbors wrote in opposition, citing among other things, the number of units, the additional strain on traffic and parking and the use of a right-of-way across city property at the back of the project. They said they wanted more of a say.
"I feel like most of the neighbors feel like something should go there," said Laura Johnson, of 7 Esquire Drive. "I don't think that is the issue. It is working with the neighbors to fit something into the area."