East Broadway Housing Plan Fails in Tense Three-Hour Haverhill Council Debate

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 attempted to convert a former sand pit on Haverhill's East Broadway into 30 single-family homes. (WHAV News photograph)

Tempers flared at Tuesday’s public City Council hearing about the East Broadway zoning ordinance and despite developers’ best intentions, the bid failed.

Larry Smith, the founder of Finagle A Bagel, planned to convert a former sand pit into 30 single-family homes for those 55 and over. During Tuesday’s meeting, as Smith and attorney Michael Migliori touted tax incentives, Councilor William J. Macek urged the public not to let wool be pulled over their eyes.

In one terse exchange, Macek took Migliori to task for not focusing on the zoning ordinance at hand.

“I don’t know if Attorney Migliori doesn’t understand you, but I believe the zoning is the only topic of discussion tonight accordance with the agenda, and the project—that may or may not happen—is not on the table tonight and should not be discussed at all. The zoning needs to stand on its own and not be baited with other information which is not related to the hearing.”

Supporters of the project suggested using the East Broadway project to set a precedent for future zoning in the City of Haverhill. As an added benefit, John Buzzell Jr., the grandson of landowner Ralph Buzzell, said Smith’s efforts to could beautify a city eyesore.

“I would love to build a house there myself, but I’m sorry, it’s a hole in the ground and there’s nothing I can do to fix it. These people have the opportunity to put grass where there’s dirt. I’m just asking for an opportunity to come in and make this better,” Buzzell said. “Please just give us a chance to make the community better.”

As the debate extended past the two-hour mark, several city councilors, including Macek and Joseph J. Bevilacqua, argued the ordinance was too site-specific and had too many unanswered questions.

In the end, the plan to forge ahead with Smith’s senior housing development was declared dead on arrival, despite the council’s best efforts to save it through amendments.

With the project off the table, opponents like farm owner Don Cox are declaring victory. “I am not opposed to developments, but I am against an out-of-town developer rewriting our zoning for their benefit, he said during the meeting. “Once land is developed, it doesn’t go the other way.”