Haverhill Council Agrees Building Plans Before the Body Require Professional Scrutiny in Advance

Haverhill City Councilor Melinda E. Barrett. (WHAV News photograph by Jay Saulnier.)

The Haverhill City Council agreed to consider adding design review to construction proposals prior to them coming before the body.

The idea, championed by Councilor Melinda E. Barrett, would have professionals in architecture and landscape design review builders’ plans before they are submitted to the Council or to city planning officials.

Barrett cited, as an example, a request to convert the Grondin-Carnevale Funeral Home at 125-129 Kenoza Ave. into seven condominium units. That project ended up being delayed back in September when abutters and other neighbors expressed reservations regarding the builders’ design plans.

“Recently, we had a building that had a kind of ad-hoc design review, when neighbors, who had a skill set, interceded because they were concerned about what the ultimate look would be. I don’t think a design review has to be a hindrance. It’s more of a help so you’re not having an uproar and then having to backtrack,” she explained.

Barrett stressed she is not looking at something like a historical district board, but rather someone in an advisory capacity to make certain any new construction is compatible with existing structures.

Councilors agreed unanimously to send the idea to the Planning Department. They also agreed to a suggestion by Councilor Joseph J. Bevilacqua to ask Economic Development and Planning Director William Pillsbury Jr. and the building inspector’s office about the design review process currently in place.

In a related matter, Barrett told her colleagues she was approached recently by the Inspectional Services Department seeking clarification about what kind of changes could be approved by them after a building permit has been issued, and those that need to be brought back before the Council.

“Inspectional Services would like us to work with them to create a list of things that they can just okay on the spot, and then things that might kick it up to a granting authority instead of them making the decision,” she said.

The suggestion will be considered by the city’s Planning Department.

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