Councilors Approve Most Zoning Plans, but Defer on Rural Growth; Faro Talks of Ward Hill Village

(Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

The Haverhill City Council voted last night to approve most of the recommended updates to the city’s zoning ordinances, but postponed action on a plan that could potentially increase housing in rural areas.

Councilors voted unanimously to prohibit the establishment of so-called safe injection sites anywhere in the city. They also voted 8-0, with Councilor Michael S. McGonagle abstaining, to disallow any social marijuana consumption establishments. Both prohibitions had been sought by Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua. Other amendments, designed to make zoning match the city’s new master plan, included regulations on storage containers, requirements for accessory apartments and the oversight of tattoo parlors.

One area of contention was a revised proposal to allow so called cluster housing developments, by special permit in rural residential neighborhoods. Haverhill’s Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. explained it is a compromise from a proposal to reduce some minimum rural lot sizes from two acres to one.

“The acreage is a minimum of four acres and then beyond that you would look at each particular project of four acres, or whatever it may be, and then apply a factor of 80 percent. So, in other words, if you have a 10 acre parcel, you’d be able to have eight lots,” he said.

A number of residents turned out to voice their opinions both for and against the proposal. In the latter column, Christine Kwitchoff told the committee residents simply haven’t had enough time to review the plan.

“While the compromise is greatly appreciated, the community hasn’t had adequate time nor a proper mechanism to discuss this proposed compromise. I mean, it just doesn’t feel that trying to review this and ask questions at the same time that council is expected to vote on it tonight just doesn’t feel appropriate,” she said.

Tuscan Village Developer Joseph Faro, who founded Joseph’s Gourmet Pastas and Sauces in Haverhill, said he particularly likes the master plan’s concept for village centers. He said he is already at work looking at housing in Ward Hill with Joseph’s Trattoria restaurant at the center of such a village.

Appeals Board Chairman George Moriarty also backed the updated zoning proposal, saying it would bring clarity to his board’s decisions.

Following public comment, councilors agreed the rural neighborhood compromise was too important to rush through and more time is needed to consider it. Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan put it this way. “I don’t want to hold up the rest of the master plan because we can’t agree on what to do with residential rural. I actually think that what is being proposed in amendment four has a lot of merit but I do think that it needs to be fleshed out more,” he said.

In the end, the Council voted to pass the rest of the proposed changes, but to take no action on rural issues. Instead, councilors and Mayor James J. Fiorentini agreed to a workshop-style meeting to review options and to send it to back to the Planning Board for further consideration.

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