Councilors Approve North Ave. Housing; Street to Get Upgrade

City Councilor William J. Macek.

City Councilor William J. Macek.

A downsized, 64-unit assisted living complex off North Avenue, will be constructed after all, while residents will receive a $5 million street improvement project.

All nine Haverhill city councilors originally granted a modified special permit to Continental Wingate Development Company of Needham to build an assisted living and memory care complex on eight acres of land near the existing Wingate at Haverhill nursing home. Later, the vote was changed to 8-1 (see separate story). Councilors unanimously rejected the project last February, but the developer filed suit in Essex County Land Court. Before the final vote, councilors passed two amendments to the special permit on a motion by Councilor William J. Macek. One earmarks Continental Wingate’s $400,000 contribution toward traffic and safety mitigation as the city’s portion of a proposed $5 million state improvement project for North Avenue.

“We could use the Wingate money rather than have them install lighting and signage and sidewalks to use it to be for development. And our portion, that we need to put down, and the state will then pay for those amenities rather than having the developer pay for them,” Macek explained.

A number of residents spoke against the project, but councilors said if history is a guide the city would likely lose the suit brought by Continental Wingate and the original 90-unit project would be built.

Macek said the mitigation payment would come at two stages, $200,000 immediately and another $200,000 when occupancy permits are issued.

Macek was among councilors who raised traffic and safety concerns for the North Avenue-Concord Street intersection when Continental Wingate’s initial special permit request for a 90-unit development with independent living units was rejected last February. A court recently remanded the case back to the council after Continental Wingate proposed reducing the project’s footprint by 30 percent. The developer also doubled its original $200,000 in mitigation funding with their own plans to add signage, sidewalks and a handicapped crosswalk ramp, among other things.

The second amendment limits signage placed by the developer to a street sign for the complex’s entrance.

“We can take that money out in support with the mayor and do it ourself. We’re not jeopardizing this money. We still have the $400,000 to use for North Avenue safety and traffic improvements. It’s just that I think we’ll get a better bang for our buck and also guarantee that we’ll have the money earmarked and set aside to go forward should the state give us a green light for the $5 million project,” Macek said.

Councilor Colin F. LePage participated in Tuesday’s meeting by remote teleconference.

Besides Wingate at Haverhill, 190 North Ave., the company also owns Wingate at Andover, 80 Andover St., Andover. The company is operated by Scott and Gerald Schuster.