City Council chambers - December 13, 2018 at 6:30pm. (The city's meeting notice is posted here)
Proposed Zoning Changes: Use your voice to ensure positive changes.
The City Council and Planning Board will hold a Joint Public Hearing on December 13, 2018 in the City Council Chambers. This is the time to let Councilors and Planning Board Members know your thoughts on a proposed Adaptive Reuse Overlay District.
Here are some ways to learn more about this proposed zoning overlay:
The ordinance itself is here >> (Link to Municipal and Religious Properties Adaptive Reuse Overlay District Draft Ordinance on City’s website.)
This is a list of the properties to which the overlay will apply >> (Link to List of Municipal and Religious Properties.) This list includes most of the religious and city-owned buildings in the city, a total of 28 properties.
Please take a moment to read the zoning ordinance, especially if you live very near one of these sites. The city planning department is available to answer your questions, as they have many of ours, or consider calling your city councilor to discuss the ordinance. We will be attending the Joint Public Hearing and invite you to join us
Historic Salem’s thoughts:
The stated intent of the Adaptive Reuse Overlay District is to facilitate the appropriate preservation and reuse of eligible buildings -- this is an outcome that Historic Salem wholeheartedly supports.
However, the details of the proposed ordinance will also allow, and therefore encourage, substantial new construction on the lots on which the buildings are located. In some cases, additions to building footprint would be allowed 5 feet from neighboring property lines and in others, the existing buildings could have several floors added to their height. Important to note - any proposed new construction could be 50 feet tall, or higher. This is in contrast to the surrounding residential neighborhoods, which generally have buildings less than 35 feet tall. If you want to read more about the allowable dimensions for new construction on these school and church sites look for Section 8.7.4 in the ordinance draft.
We think that in order to meet the stated purpose, to allow for reuse…which will best serve the community but will minimize impacts to surrounding neighborhoods, additions and other new construction should be required to meet the dimensional requirements of the underlying or adjacent zoning – so that it fits into the neighborhood. New construction should also be a carefully considered with approval from the Historic Commission and Design Review Board. These changes to the proposed ordinance would allow for reuse flexibility while also respecting the civic presence of the historic buildings and the existing neighborhoods in which they sit.
 The public comment period is often closed on the night of the Joint Public Hearing, so we suggest comments be sent by December 13th.
 In an R-1 (Single Family) or an R-2 (2 family) zone new construction must be 10 feet from the lot line, and in R-3 zoning, which is a higher density, multi-family zone the minimum is 20 feet from adjacent properties.
 An existing zoning designation that has similar setbacks, density, height and parking allowances is the B-5 (Central Development) zone, which covers downtown Salem. In this zone, projects are successfully reviewed by the Salem Redevelopment Authority and Design Review Board to ensure that projects best serve the community.
"Old and young, we dream of graves and monuments"
— from "The Ambitious Guest"
Historic Salem, Inc. is excited to celebrate Nathaniel Hawthorne in recognition of the 350th anniversary of The House of the Seven Gables on this year's Christmas in Salem house tour, A Very Hawthorne Holiday. While tour-goers are rounding the outer limit of the tour route along Hawthorne Boulevard, they will certainly notice the figure of the author memorialized there in bronze.
Salem's statue of its most famous son was sculpted by Connecticut-born artist Bela Lyon Pratt (1867–1917). The statue was on display at Boston's Museum of Fine Art before being purchased with funds raised by the Nathaniel Hawthorne Memorial Association and moved to its current location in 1925, the same year that the Hawthorne Hotel was opened.
In his sculpture, Pratt chose to portray the author sitting on rocks by the ocean because, he said, "It was [Hawthorne's] habit when in Salem to walk alone by the sea and to sit for hours looking across the water." The work is meant to convey Hawthorne's genius and the isolation brought on by his "brooding spirit."
Hawthorne once described his feeling for Salem as "not love, but instinct." He was not particularly fond of his hometown and spent much of his life trying to escape, only to be pulled back by circumstances beyond his control. It is certainly entertaining to imagine the dark humor that Hawthorne might find in the situation were he alive today to see this nine-foot statue situated upon a boulevard bearing his name, in a city he was always trying to leave behind.
Since the initiation of the North River Canal planning process in 2000, Historic Salem, Inc. has participated in and supported the goals of the North River Canal Corridor (NRCC) Master Plan and zoning ordinance. All the neighborhoods that abut the NRCC are historic neighborhoods which will be affected by development in the Corridor. A key aspect of the NRCC Master Plan is the importance of neighborhood character as reflected by the customized goals for each section of the Corridor. Another key part of the NRCC zoning ordinance is the review oversight of the Design Review Board (DRB).
The DRB is a board that possesses specialized skills and experience to address urban design issues as they apply in many areas of our city. Their value has been proven in the long tradition of work with the Salem Redevelopment Authority. The Planning Board and City Council have also shown their recognition of the valuable role of the DRB, as evidenced by the recent change that adds DRB review to projects in the Urban Entrance Corridors. We support the work of the Design Review Board throughout the city and find that the iterative nature of their review improves each project that they evaluate.
Since the introduction of the NRCC Zoning District in 2003, as far as we know, every development approved by the Planning Board has received a positive recommendation from the DRB. With the recent approval by the Planning Board of a project (16-18-20R Franklin Street) that received a negative recommendation from the DRB there is now precedent to allow projects with a negative recommendation to move forward.
This dismissal of the DRB decision undermines the clear intent of the NRCC zoning ordinance. Historic Salem believes that any project, in any zoning district, that must seek a DRB recommendation should receive positive endorsement to qualify for final consideration by other boards.
Historic Salem supports action to clarify the DRB relationship with the Planning Board to insure that the intent of the NRCC Master Plan and Zoning Ordinance is honored, and to improve communication and collaboration among all city boards.
Last Saturday Professor Chip Piatti spoke to a full house about the "Language of Architecture." Here are some of the things that stood out to me in the context of Historic Salem's mission to preserve historic resources and ensure that new construction fits in the historic context.
#1 - When you build you change the environment three ways:
1-You change the location you are building in.
2-You process resources into building materials.
3-You change the location that the materials come from.
How does this relate to our historic city? The intersection of preservation and sustainability is greatly underappreciated in the United States. In Britain, for example, these two disciplines are grouped together under the name “conservation” with specialties in heritage conservation, landscape conservation, or biodiversity conservation.
Without discounting the negative effect humans can have on the environment we have to acknowledge that we are nevertheless part of the environment. Our bodies are made of the same carbons that birds and beaver are made of, and just like them, we build shelter and edifice, which then becomes part of our built environment, nestled in our natural environment. Throughout Professor Piatti’s talk he referenced our human connection to the environment, pointing out that one part of a successful city or building is having a connection to the environment.
But back to the intersection of preservation and sustainability. When one makes the effort to build something it should balance positive and negative impacts to the environment (natural and civic). It is particularly critical to acknowledge the overall and long-term environmental impact of extracting, processing, shipping and disposal of materials. This seems like a great time to mention that the greenest building is the one already built -- reusing a building results in dramatically less change to the current environment, less need to create new materials (or dispose of old) and less change to the places from which materials originate.
"The greenest building is the one...that is already built."
#2 Architecture is the intersection of art and engineering – and -
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