E. Broadway Developer Says Over 55 Project Won’t Add to School Population; Will Add to Tax Base

Developer Larry Smith displays sample house designs for his proposed 30-unit, over 55, community, that went down to defeat in 2018. (WHAV News photograph.)

Developer Larry Smith displays sample house designs for his proposed 30-unit, over 55, community, in a former sand pit off East Broadwat. (WHAV News photograph.)

A housing developer hopes to win city approval to convert a former East Broadway sand pit into the location of 30 single-family homes for those 55 and older.

Interviewed by WHAV at the site, developer Larry Smith said the key benefit to the city is a dramatic increase in annual property taxes, but without the costs of additional students in public schools, street maintenance, trash collection or snow removal.

“Almost every nickel that is paid in real estate taxes—which will be $300,000—goes to the bottom line,” he said.

He said the city currently receives $5,800 a year in taxes. A homeowners’ association will be responsible for most other costs except fire and police.

Smith, the founder of Finagle A Bagel, said another advantage of his project is the restoration of the sand pit into residential land, while ensuring safety at the unmonitored site. He explained 400,000 cubic yards of dirt was removed from the site over 50 years, leaving erosion and unsafe cliffs.

“It’s the equivalent of five football fields laid next to each other and then the volume of 50-feet high above that,” Smith explained. That’s the amount of soils that was moved out of here starting in the late 40s, right to the late 90s into the 2000s actually.”

Architect’s rendering of one proposed house style.

Contrary to rumors, he added, his project doesn’t harm pristine land. “We’re not taking one inch of farmland away. We’re not taking forestry away. We’re improving a site that has literally been—I hate to use the term—raped over a 50-year process of all its natural resources. There’s no natural resources left on this.”

The developer has built similar communities—79 houses in Gloucester between “Village at West Gloucester” and “Village at Magnolia Shores,” and 45 in Amesbury at “Hatter’s Point.” Smith said the homes will sell for between $675,000 and $700,000.

“We’re bringing plus 55 people that are either retired or near retired into these communities. And, the niche we found is we build very high-end homes.”

Smith: Traditional, Single-Family Subdivision Not Feasible

Proposed East Broadway site plan.

His proposed homes will feature a maximum of two bedrooms. Under current zoning, he said he is allowed to build up to a 12-home subdivision, which would likely add to taxpayer costs. However, he said, such a small project is “financially not feasible” because of the $5 million cost to deal with slopes of up to 60 feet at the site, build roads and add 1,000 feet of water lines along East Broadway. To resolve current zoning limitations, his company is asking the City Council June 19 to create a “Senior Housing Overlay District.”

“The initial cost, just to get started, makes it very, very difficult to have less units. We have 30 units in our plan right now,” said Smith.

Some houses will have Merrimack River views and Smith hopes to have 10 boat slips added. Public access to the river is also promised along with replacement of a 60-foot conservation bridge in Meadow Brook Conservation Area.

Responding to objections, he said, deed restrictions and rules of the homeowners’ association ensure the project can’t be changed. That is, owners must be 55 or older, no one below age 18 is allowed to stay more than eight weeks and no commercial uses.

Neighbors Appear Split on Support

Smith promises his company is not going to buy and flip the development. In fact, he added, he won’t object to any City Council prohibition on assignments.

While the developer has received signatures of support from various East Broadway and adjacent neighbors, opposition from other abutters is expected. He said he has heard concerns from Donnie Cox, owner of adjacent Fletcher Farm. While attempts to reach Cox were unsuccessful by news deadline, Smith said he is willing to make concessions to address sticking points. These include a deed restriction, relinquishing future homeowners’ rights to complain about farm odors and other activity; donation of up to $30,000 to build a farm stand; and naming Cox to the homeowners association board. He said the restriction is commonly used at golf communities.