Haverhill Planning Board to Recommend Most Proposed Zoning Changes; Pause on Cutting Lot Sizes

(File photograph.)

The Haverhill Planning Board, which received earfuls from city residents at a public hearing Wednesday night, is recommending the City Council adopt most proposed zoning changes.

Members paused though when hearing resident concerns about a proposal to reduce the minimum lot size in Residential Rural zones from two acres to one. They said the City Council should consider opponents’ views.

Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury explained the proposal to drop parcel sizes from 80,000 to 40,000 square feet was designed to increase the availability of single-family homes. The plan, part of the “Haverhill Vision 2035” master plan, was met with strong opposition by most of those who expressed their opinions. One of them, Sam Bergeron of Haverhill, put it this way.

“Even if you clear-cut every single acre of forest in Haverhill and built one acre lots on there, you would not even put a dent into the housing shortage in the Merrimack Valley, let alone the Greater Boston area. So, the argument that there is some kind of economic benefit for the city or for the average citizen of Haverhill to come from eliminating our rural areas is kind of silly. However, there is a serious detriment that would come from this. You’re jeopardizing our water supply, our clean air and our future ability to pivot in relation to climate change and other natural disasters. To me, this zoning seems very short-sighted and designed to reward a very small number of people at the expense of the greater community,” Bergeron said.

Board members generally expressed satisfaction with plans to encourage more building within existing industrial parks—particularly the Ward Hill Business Park. The consensus, however, was redevelopment of the former Haverhill “Dutton” Airport, near Kenoza Lake, may have to be placed on the back burner.

To encourage modern manufacturing, draft plans call for requiring fewer parking spaces following the trend of fewer workers; changing maximum building heights from 50 feet to 85 feet, to accommodate “high-bay and modular industrial spaces with additional offices or flexible industrial space above;” reducing front setbacks for denser land use;” and other changes.

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