SALEM — A change in the Depot Overlay zoning district could help ease the redevelopment of that area of town at the intersection of Route 28 and Main Street.
If voters approve a zoning amendment on the March town election ballot, the Planning Board will have the ability to grant conditional use permits for applicants looking to develop in the district if they do not meet all the district zoning requirements.“In 2011, the Planning Board worked with a consultant to put together a Depot Overlay District trying to encourage the redevelopment of the Depot area,” said Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff. “We started to work with that ordinance this year, and when an applicant had problems with some of the requirements, we found out at the time that there was no waiver provision and no conditional use provision the Planning Board could use.”If an applicant comes in and does not meet all the requirements of the district, the applicant then has to apply for a variance from the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Allowing a conditional use permit for the Depot Overlay District would be similar to the conditional use permits the Planning Board is allowed to grant for the town’s parking, wetlands, senior housing, and other ordinances, according to Moldoff.“There’s always a way for the Planning Board to grant a waiver or a conditional use permit for applicants that can’t meet the requirements,” he said. “The reason that makes sense is because the Planning Board is going to be working closely with the applicants on these types of projects. I think it ought to be in the Planning Board’s interest when the applicant can’t meet the requirements of the ordinance.”The ability of the Planning Board to grant conditional use permits arises from state statute, said board chairman Robert Campbell.
“This allows us to consider the impact of the proposed conditional use permit on the whole of the development or process, rather than granting variances which may not totally address issues involved in the planning,” said Campbell.The Planning Board unanimously approved placing the zoning amendment on the March 11 town ballot.