Local Government and Politics, News

Zoning Board approves 132-unit Wallis Street development

A rendering of the 132-unit development set to go up at the corner of Walnut and Wallis streets. (SV Design)

PEABODY — The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to approve a decision granting a comprehensive permit to a 132-unit apartment complex, proposed under Chapter 40B, to be located on Wallis Street along the Walnut Street corridor.

The development comprises an aggregate 1.9 acres of land at 39 Wallis St., 4 Upton St., and 8 Upton St., with frontage along Walnut Street to the south, Wallis Street to the west, and Upton Street to the north and east, and consumes almost an entire city block. The existing buildings at the site will be razed to make way for two L-shaped buildings connected by a skybridge.

The ZBA opened its hearing on June 6, 2022, and closed it on July 17 of this year, setting the stage for the approval Monday.

The state’s Chapter 40B law allows developers to bypass existing zoning regulations in communities with less than 10% affordable housing should they set aside 20% to 25% of the units as affordable. With Peabody below that threshold at the time of the application’s submission, the developer, Tan-Rite Residences LLC, will be able to construct a mixed-use development in an area where residential uses would typically be barred.

Under the terms of the decision, the development will be made up of four studio apartments, 78 one-bedroom units, 36 two-bedroom units, and 14 three-bedroom units, for a total of 196 bedrooms between the 132 units. Thirty-three of those units, 25% of the total, will be designated as affordable for residents earning a maximum of 80% of the area median income. The decision also allows for the construction of up to four commercial units.

The affordable units will be designated as such for a minimum of 30 years, and preference for sale of the units shall be given to residents of the city, which includes employees of city businesses, city employees, and households with children attending Peabody Public Schools.

A total of 202 parking spaces are proposed, split between 110 garage spaces to be located in the east and west wings of the new building and 92 exterior spaces.

The development will be served by municipal water and sewer.

The decision describes the development as “desirable because it will revitalize and spur future and needed high-quality development in the surrounding Walnut Street corridor area, which the city of Peabody has targeted for transformative development incorporating resilient design measures to provide flood protection during storm events in close proximity to the property and other sustainable features as presented.”

In doing so, the document echoes the comments of Attorney Jason Panos, who represented the developer through the duration of the ZBA process.

Panos said Monday that the development represents a “transformational proposal” for the Walnut Street corridor, and will assist in the city’s ongoing redevelopment of downtown and Main Street.

“We believe this will set the standard for future development of that corridor,” Panos said, adding that the development was designed with substantial input from the city and will comport with future planning and flood mitigation efforts in the area.

The decision sets out 38 conditions of the permit’s approval, including that the developer provide mitigation at the intersection of Walnut and Wallis streets. Mitigation efforts include replacing pedestrian signal heads with LED countdown pedestrian heads, retrofitting mounted overhead signal heads, replacing crosswalk markings, and replacing pedestrian push buttons with ADA-compliant buttons with accessible audible tones.

The cost of that mitigation is capped at $25,000 and the city is responsible for completing the work. Should the cost exceed $25,000, the city will take on the excess.

But, the city will not be responsible for the operation, maintenance, or repair of the stormwater-management system, interior roadways, snowplowing and removal, all sewer and water connections from public ways to the buildings, lighting, trash disposal, and all utility appurtenances exclusively serving the department.

The development will feature permeable pavers on all interior walkways, and the decision goes on to list a number of other stormwater-management measures the developer will be required to implement, including the submission of a stormwater pollution-prevention plan to the engineering development 14 days prior to any earth disturbance at the site.

Panos said approval of the decision represents chapter one of a long process, and the developer has three years to begin construction.

“Now is when the rubber meets the road,” he said.

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