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Senior housing proposal concerns Salem abutters

SALEM — Developers of a proposed 48-unit senior housing community are hoping to find common ground with a handful of neighbors worried about the impact of the project.

During Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, Carl Dubay of the Dubay Group, along with property owner Tim Oriole and broker/owner of NH Country Homes Tina Habib, shared conceptual plans for the new housing community to be located on two merged lots at 67-73 and 77 Pond St.

Dubay said plans for the project have been discussed for several months now, and he’s been working closely with the town’s engineering and fire departments, as well as Planning Director Ross Moldoff.

Dubay said Salem had a considerable spike in elderly housing proposals about a decade ago, though the majority of those projects centered on apartments or assisted-living facilities for frail seniors.

“Very few projects had been approved for this type of single-family, detached village,” Dubay said. “Moving forward, we still have a pretty large elderly demographic in this town and lots of people don’t want to move into an apartment just yet.”

Several residents attending Tuesday night’s meeting voiced concerns about the project’s septic density, overcrowding and the potential for too many cars being parked onsite should the clubhouse be rented out for resident functions and parties.

“I think 48 units on this site is just too many for the rural district,” abutter Eugene Hulshult said. “All of us here have 2 acre lots, so this would be entirely too many.”

Hulshult said the clubhouse plans and parking lot were both major concerns.

“Would it be public?” he asked. “And would the site’s drainage be emptying in my back yard?”

Town officials said the project remains in conceptual stages and has a way to go before it would go forward to a public hearing. A wetlands permit would still be needed from both the Conservation Commission and the state, Moldoff said.

According to statistics compiled by Habib, one third of all American homes are owned by citizens aged 62 or older.

In Salem, 8,000 homes are owned by residents in their late 50s or early 60s and another 4,400 are owned by residents in their late 60s or older.

“I think there’s a huge need for housing of this type,” Habib told the board.

Developers held a meeting with the site’s future abutters on May 4 and around a dozen of those 55 abutters attended.

Habib said three of those citizens said they needed to learn more about the project before forming an opinion, while at least one told her he objected to the project.

Several others told Habib they didn’t have a problem with the project.

According to Moldoff, the plans for the community would also incorporate a caretaker’s cottage from the historic Searles estate into a new clubhouse, though further details have yet to be determined. Moldoff further noted that the site would likely use a community septic system, though it would rely on Salem town water.

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