City Moves Closer to Stevens Street Rebuilding Plan

Scene of Stevens Street fire last fall.

Haverhill Planning and Economic Development Director William Pillsbury Jr.

Haverhill Planning and Economic Development Director William Pillsbury Jr.

Six months after fire ravaged a Stevens Street mill building, Haverhill city councilors tonight prepare to revisit the city’s zoning and redevelopment plans in that industrial neighborhood for the first time since action was delayed last October.

On the council agenda, Haverhill Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. is seeking a public hearing April 5 for “additional minor changes” to the city zoning ordinance for a Chapter 40R Downtown Smart Growth overlay district. The proposed amendment, to be placed on file for two weeks, would extend the district boundaries to include the westerly, or Little River, side of Stevens Street.

“This change will position the city for additional resources to be made available to the city from the state to redevelop the area,” Pillsbury wrote in a March 11 memo to councilors.

Last Sept. 20, as WHAV reported, an eight-alarm blaze destroyed the former site of Hudson Machinery Company, 14-30 Stevens St., on the side of Little River behind Lafayette Square. Three days later four teenagers, including two 15 year-olds, a 14 year-old and a 16 year-old, were arrested and faced arson charges in Lawrence Juvenile Court in connection with the blaze and another fire Sept. 16. Case details have not been disclosed by Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett’s office since pre-trial hearings were scheduled as late as November.

The expanded Stevens Street overlay district zoning proposal received unanimous favorable recommendation from the Haverhill Planning Board last Oct. 14. However, during a public hearing by the council Oct. 20, action was tabled “to an indefinite date” as Pillsbury had advised the council not to act until an application to change the overlay district’s zoning map was approved by the state. A zoning map dated Nov. 23, 2015 is included with the latest supporting council documents. It shows the Downtown Smart Growth overlay distirict within the boundaries of Winter, Locust, Walnut and Emerson streets as well as the Merrimack River and along the MBTA/Pan American Rail line.

The Haverhill City Council meets at 7 p.m., Tuesday, in Theodore A. Pelosi Jr. Council Chambers at Haverhill City Hall.