To the editor:
I write in praise of the four city councilors who took the long view and voted against the Salem ordinance to expand the use of “accessory dwelling units.” Gov. Charlie Baker unfairly and wrongly criticized them last week. The facts tell a different story than the Driscoll/Baker alliance marketing machine is promoting.
Salem out-performs with 12.4% of our housing units classed affordable (vs. the 10% state recommended standard). We are in the 93rd percentile for population density of all cities/towns in Massachusetts. Just to name two transit-oriented neighbors, Swampscott and Hamilton both report fewer than 4% affordable housing units. Given our high population density, we are past the stage of “all development is good” and should be focused on careful city planning and smart development. Our leaders need to enforce current building ordinances and Salem Downtown Renewal Plan standards to protect our tourism economy, our schools and our infrastructure.
We halted the disastrous “urban renewal” razing 50 years ago and have thoughtfully repurposed buildings, antique streets and 400-year-old public ways. This careful planning takes more time than the current pace of speculative building — but the results are worth it.
If Boston is seeking more housing, we understand the need and encourage the state to spread the support of this economic engine more equitably including well-off communities with public transit access. Salem will not sacrifice our historical identity for the sake of development.