There Is No Public Profit To This Proposal
By S. S. McClure
In a city full of residential and commercial development projects it is seems that very few get the opportunity to fly under the radar. No matter what somebody wants to build, or where, there is always a party or two prepared to object.
Sometimes those objections are flaccid attempts at obstruction. Most of those fail to gain any real traction after the initial public protests. On occasion they do gain some traction even if they fail in the end. I would cite the hue and cry over the St. Joseph’s Church development a few years back as an example.
There are other occasions where the the objections are solid and and result in a quick retreat by the developer. The RCG Artist’s Row proposal from ten years ago was withdrawn when many a Salem resident “marched on the castle to slay the monster.”
Salem is dense community with a fair amount of open spaces in comparison to its area. Many of those spaces however, are very small and are located very close to dense neighborhoods. These spaces while little known are true urban jewels and should be protected against development. The problem is however, that some of these public spaces are abutted by privately owned open space and lie in zoning areas that allow for development.
One of those spaces is, probably known to many without a reminder is currently in danger due to a local resident selling the rights to Swampscott developer Nathan Jacobson who does business under a variety of corporate identities.
The spot is an elevated section of good solid Salem ledge located behind the Collins Middle School, alongside Francis Road, and south of Jackson Street. Some will know it as the hilly area behind the end zone at Bertram Field. It is, despite its location in a dense urban landscape, home to a large variety of wildlife. It also abuts some protected land alongside the middle school.
There are rumors already about the how and the why of this proposed project. All that really matters is that there is profit too be made. Money is what is what drives all development. If there is profit for the private developer then it will be pursued. The question is, and has always been, is there profit for the public entity and is that profit actually worth it?
This project will require an access road to be built at the end of Bertuccio Avenue, a quiet little known dead-end street of single family homes built in the 1950’s and 1960’s. This new access road will require the blasting of ledge, as will the holes in which to build the foundations of the proposed houses. Drainage will be an issue because of the elevation and the ledge, so a holding pond will be required.
The steep thirty foot tall walls of jagged rock behind the homes on Francis road stand alone as testament against any blasting. The prevalent wildlife in the area, should stand as testament against this project going forward. The fact that the City of Salem a few years ago rejected a proposal to allow access to this site via the Highland Avenue (Pep Cornacchio Lane) entrance to Bertram Field and the middle school should stand as testament against this project. A desire to leave some some undeveloped space for neighborhood kids to roam should speak against this project.
Let’s do the right thing here. This is not a brownfield. This is not commercially attractive downtown space. This is not land on a major entrance corridor. This is not space that has ever been anything else but open space. This is a space long unmolested that abuts a small neighborhood, a school, and a public park. Leave it as is.
This is one occasion where the public should “march on the castle to slay the monster.”