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Board member questions Depot District zoning

SALEM — One Planning Board member is having second thoughts about allowing buildings closer to the road in the town’s Depot overlay district.

The Depot district in the area of Main Street and Route 28 allows smaller setbacks to encourage a more downtown feel.

The discussion about the setbacks came up at this week’s Planning Board meeting, when Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff brought up a request by the new Salem Medical Plaza building at 159 North Broadway to place a sign closer to the road.

“They have approval for the sign to be 20 feet back from the road and to be 100 square feet in size,” said Moldoff. “They are allowed under zoning to reduce the size of the sign by half and they can move it forward so it would be a 10-foot setback instead of a 20-foot setback.”

Because the medical plaza was approved with an eight-foot setback from the road, Moldoff said the sign would still be behind the front line of the building.

The Planning Board agreed that it would be fine to allow the sign closer to the road as long as it is smaller, but board member Ron Belanger said that overall, he is not a fan of the move to put buildings closer to the road in the Depot district.

“There have been a lot of calls about this plan saying it is so close to the road,” Belanger said. “That’s what the Depot look is supposed to be, it’s supposed to be closer to the road. But now that I see it, I don’t care for it and I don’t think I’d like to see that sign much closer to the road.”

Belanger said he voted for the Salem Medical Plaza site plan, but now believes that the building looks like it is too close to the road.

“I know that the Depot overlay district, when that passed, a lot of buildings would be up closer to the street rather than set back, and I’m not really comfortable with that,” said Belanger. “I know I am just venting and I’m not going to change anything here now.”

Planning Board member Phyllis O’Grady said she likes the look of the building being closer to the street.

“I personally like the way it looks,” she said. “I like it closer to the street because the cars are going to be in the back of the building.”

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