29 Essex St. housing tabled for September

A rendering of the proposed 29 Essex St. development in Swampscott. (Peter Pitman)

SWAMPSCOTT — The Planning Board tabled developer Realty Investors, LLC’s permit request to construct an eight-unit residential structure on 29 Essex St. until September, so town engineers and the Department of Public Works can review the proposed project.

In a lengthy presentation Monday evening, the project’s architect, Peter Pitman, gave the board an overview of the proposed structure, which would renovate and attach an annex to a preexisting 120-year-old building.

The new one-bedroom, two-bedroom, and studio apartments, Pitman said, would diversify the town’s housing market to allow units for Swampscott’s entry-level or blue-collar workers.

“Before COVID, everything I did was two bedrooms and two baths, because that’s what every broker told us they wanted. Coming out of COVID, they all want a diverse portfolio,” Pitman said. “The concept here is really addressing the need for workforce housing in a variety of price ranges.”

Pitman added that the redesigned development would be equipped with an HVAC system, eight parking spaces including electric-vehicle charging stations, a front porch on the preexisting structure, and a rain garden.

Planning Board member Angela Ippolito said she was hesitant to vote on the proposed site-plan application before it was reviewed by the DPW and town engineers to filter out potential engineering concerns, such as snow-removal access or drainage.

“As complete as these plans look, we need to have comments from our boards and committees… I’m not an engineer,” Ippolito said.

When Ippolito asked Pitman if he had contacted the town’s Affordable Housing Trust to potentially include subsidized housing, Pitman responded that by comprising smaller housing units, the project would open Swampscott’s housing market to tenants who might slightly exceed the income requirements for affordable housing but would not be able to afford larger apartments.

“There’s a huge market out there for people who aren’t in the ‘affordable by legislation’ market and those who are just above that threshold, who are building our homes, building this project, working in our restaurants. There’s a huge gap between the (state)-funded affordable and the unfunded affordable,” Pitman said.

Addressing Ippolito’s concern that the site plan had not yet been reviewed by the DPW, Pitman said he had been in conversation with DPW Director Gino Cresta about the project, but had not yet initiated an application review.

When Pitman requested that the board vote to approve the application under the condition of approval from the DPW and town engineers, Ippolito said that “boomerang” approvals, in which a project gets thrown back and forth between departments, would only complicate matters. Planning Board Chair Michael Proscia agreed and suggested the board review the site-plan application again in September.

“Because of that missing department review, this will have to be continued, but I would like to gather as many comments as possible in this meeting to make the September meeting as efficient as possible,” Proscia said.

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