Patti Morsillo Answers Our Questions
Highland Avenue Development, South Salem Rail, and Salem Woods
Question 1 – Ward 3 abuts the the entire southeastern side of Highland Avenue (Rte 107), a very busy and extensively developed entrance corridor. How would you approach any future development proposals for that entire area?
Regardless of location of development proposals, my approach would be the same: include the neighbors in the conversation with developers as early as possible. It is very important for developers to understand how their proposals affect neighborhoods. The earlier that neighbors can be involved, the better the outcome.
I support and encourage Community Benefits Agreements between developers and neighborhood groups working with the city. These agreements are contracts requiring the developers to make upgrades to sidewalks, roads, or drainage for example. They can also be used to create small neighborhood parks or contribute to city programs like a city-wide shuttle service. The bottom line is that the developers need to leave the neighborhood in better shape than when they began the project.
We need to continue to push the state to redesign Highland Avenue. They have agreed that the project is necessary, and will extend the design through the city owned piece of Highland Avenue (Willson St to Essex St). The big issue is how to handle the Marlborough Rd to Swampscott Rd congestion. Those two roads have become highly traveled thoroughfares, and access to them is a cause of backups at the lights on Highland Avenue.
Highland Avenue is changing, and won’t look the same in another 10 years. We as a city need to embrace this fact and help to create a vision for vibrant commercial and residential usage. Commercial development will help to stabilize the tax base, while smart residential development will help to address the housing crisis.
Question 2 – The proposed MBTA stop along Canal Street is still on the table. Do you support the addition of this rail station and if so how would you propose making it more accessible to Ward 3?
I am 100% in favor of a second MBTA stop along Canal Street. Of the proposed locations, the consensus of neighbors and businesses is for a station between Family Dollar store on Canal St, and the property at Colonial Rd, off of Jefferson Avenue. This location will give easy walking/biking access to many residents in the surrounding neighborhoods, Salem Hospital employees and visitors, and Salem State University students and staff. The new station must have access from both sides, Jefferson Avenue and Canal Street to have the intended positive impact.
A second MBTA stop will benefit the city by relieving the congestion created by cars accessing the Commuter Rail station on Bridge St. Also, the new station would be nicely situated on the new bike path on Canal St, allowing commuters and students to safely bike to the station instead of driving.
Slides from the original presentation, updated after the public meeting to reflect the consensus of those in attendance, can be found here: http://northshoretma.org/wp-content/uploads/south-salem-stop-presentation.pdf
Question 3 – Have you any thoughts on how the city uses, maintains, and preserves Salem Woods and its nature trail?
Salem Woods is a treasure in the city. Our willingness as a community to support both a golf course and a natural habitat next to each other is commendable.
It’s time for the city to step up and provide a small budget item for the maintenance of the Salem Woods trails. The Friends of Salem Woods has acted as the park’s custodians for quite a while, and they have done a fine job on a limited amount of private funds.
I would be interested in a community conversation about allocation of funds for professional maintenance of the trails as well as tackling the problem of invasive plants, like bittersweet, which is ravaging the trees and plant life at the entrance to the Woods. Could we possibly use 1% of the Salem Golf Course yearly profits to fund such work? Could we enlist city help in finding grant funds to cover the costs associated with some of the annual maintenance?
The Salem Woods have become more popular over the years, with many people regularly hiking the trails. School groups use the Woods for science lessons, identifying plants and habitats, and fostering an appreciation for nature. Our city is lucky to have this land set aside for all to enjoy its natural beauty.