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Change regarding senior housing construction in Salem proposed

SALEM — Town Planning Director Ross Moldoff is proposing an amendment to the town’s zoning bylaws that would lower the density for senior housing developments.

“I’ve been very concerned about the senior housing overlay district,” Moldoff recently told the Planning Board. “I think you are giving way too big of a density bonus for these senior housing projects you are letting people build.”

Developers who bring in projects under the senior overlay district are allowed to build four times the number of units that they would be able to build in the underlying zoning district, according to Moldoff.
Moldoff suggested the Planning Board consider amending the bylaw so only twice as many units would be allowed in the conventional zoning. In the residential district, this would lower what’s allowed from four units per acre to two, while in rural zones it would fall to one unit per acre instead of two.
“I don’t want to get rid of senior housing, but I think we are really giving a windfall to the developers of these projects,” said Moldoff. “I don’t know that we are getting something back of such a significant value to the town that it warrants this type of density.”
Planning Board member Ron Belanger noted that many older people who live in the senior developments have left larger houses and are looking for a smaller unit that is easier to take care of.


Selectman Michael Lyons requested Moldoff gather demographic information on the number of senior housing units in Salem compared to other communities before the Planning Board takes any further action on the amendment.
“Do we have a fair amount of senior housing stock right now?” he asked.

Part of the discussion is expected to revolve around whether the town has already met its share of senior housing.

“The concept behind the density bonus was that we wanted a fair age distribution in the community,” said Lyons.

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