Haverhill Council Approves 24 Homes on Emma Rose Circle

Emma Rose Circle, which feeds into Broadway west of Interstate 495, is to be extended from Developer Larry R. Palmisano’s earlier subdivision six years ago. (Courtesy graphic.)

With the hearing initially set for one month ago, Haverhill city councilors approved a special permit for the construction of 24 single family homes on Emma Rose Circle last night.

Abutters opposed the plan, favoring the 18 homes JR Builders could build “by right,” meaning without a council vote. Using a relatively new zoning ordinance, the developer offered, what were described as, “significant amenities” to the city in exchange for six extra houses. JR Builders proposed deeding the city roughly 30 acres of woodlands near the property, as well as a parcel in the Watershed Overlay Protection District, for conservation purposes.

Councilor Ralph T. Basiliere asked, “How do you walk away from conserving 38-and-a-half or 40 acres of land when it’s what the state wants, when it’s what every environmental agency and every study has been pushing for decades?”

Attorney Michael J. Migliori, the firm’s lawyer, informed the council the amenities, which also include a $72,000 donation to the city’s Affordable Housing Trust, would be off the table if the number of units dropped below 24.

Councilors tried to balance neighbors’ concerns with the overall welfare of the city, opting to approve the plan with some conditions. Residents of the existing subdivision on Emma Rose Circle cited concerns about increased traffic, a lack of street lights and sidewalks on their stretch of road and the character of their neighborhood changing.

“It’s extremely dark at night. There’s no lights. There’s no sidewalks. There’s kids that walk up and down the street,” Ryan McCarthy said. “And, with respect to the traffic study that’s been done, if someone was to come out to our street at two or three o’clock in the afternoon and try to take a left or right out of our development, it’s almost impossible, and people drive 70, 80 miles an hour down 97 and it’s extremely dangerous.”

A tree near the intersection of Emma Rose Circle and Broadway blocks sightlines, according to neighbors. Traffic Engineer Ken Cram said a study conducted over two days in April found almost all cars followed the posted speed limit of 35 mph, with one going around 60. The intersection complies with state requirements for visibility, he added.

Councilors included in the special permit the developer remove the offending tree, which JR Builders President Larry R. Palmisano agreed to do.

One resident said she and her husband chose to move to the subdivision because they were “very impressed with the neighborhood, and the size, and the cul-de-sac.” After moving in, they learned another development would be built nearby. Initially told nine more houses might be added, another resident, Edward Schena, said the number then ballooned to 24.

“It just seems like we’re being forced into that,” he said, adding “no neighbor received an abutter’s notice from the city…And I think that’s one of the reasons we’re all here. We really weren’t given a voice until now, and maybe that’s just the way business is, that’s the way it’s done.”

Questioned on landscaping and the houses’ designs, Project Engineer TJ Melvin explained there would be four or five styles alternating between buildings. He added the area would not look like a “runway” or “football field.”

Councilor Devan M. Ferreira requested the developer send renderings, which are not required under the 2020 Flexible Development ordinance, to the planning board, the next group to look at JR Builder’s plans. She sought to ensure the appearance of the new homes would match those in the current subdivision.

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