Is The Salem Master Plan Still Relevant?
Last week we asked a question of nine of the candidates in the Salem City Councillor at-Large race. We reached out to each challenger and incumbent using either email, Facebook private message, or by telephone. Each of the five challengers responded within the assigned deadline. Two of the incumbents responded also, but there were some deadline issues created by email problems that were overcome. Two of the incumbents never responded to us at all.
Here is the question that we asked them, and the answers provided by four of the challengers.
In view of the property development that Salem is experiencing, do you feel that the 1979 Salem Master Plan, last updated in 1996 remains relevant and functional today?
Salem is undergoing incredible movement. The city is seeing more and more residents from Boston and surrounding cities/towns moving to Salem. The city is seeing an increase in Salem State student remaining in the city after graduation. The city is also seeing more business and job growth, both public and private, in small and large business. I am a firm believer that growth and innovation in this 21st century economy is not just relevant, it is necessary.
However, Because of this movement, the property development in Salem is growing and creating problems that were unforeseeable in the 1979 Master Plan, nor in the revised 1996 plan. In my opinion, the city needs to develop a committee to review and update the City Master Plan. This committee should include the Mayor, City Councilors, residents, and members from all of the different constituents in Salem. This would include Salem State University, North Shore Medical, and owners of the businesses. Additionally, the committee should invite representatives from cities that are similar to Salem to provide a comparable metric. I believe that reviewing and updating the City Master Plan is necessary. If I am elected, I will make sure to be a leader in this movement.
I think that the 1979 Salem Master Plan is functional but needs some adjustments and improvements because it is outdated. Projects and day to day life are moving at such a fast speed, that our plans for the city need to be able to keep up in order to stay relevant. Developers need to be restricted to an extent so that they cannot construct in every corner of the city, causing increase in traffic and in some cases parking issues and other implications.City cost in some of the projects do no leave any benefits for the city either, so we need to update in order to ensure that there are great benefits. The master plan states that developers cannot build buildings higher than 4 stories. However recently reconstructed was the old Salem jail that is six stories high. The master plan needs to be clear and abided by. Some of the condo and apartments in some of the area that are also affecting the quality of life in neighborhoods like in South Salem. When constructing new building quality of life of the residence needs to be considered and evaluated before developers can begin.
In conclusion Salem’s master plan needs to be reevaluated to make sure we can not only have better master plan but we can have a smarter master plan.
In Salem we have many different Master plans . We have North River Canal Corridor (circa2004), Point Corridor District Plan (2013-2020), Open Space and Recreation Master Plan, Art and Public Space master plan (2013), Winter Island Park Plan (2011) Salem Downtown renewal plan (2011) Salem Bridge St Neck Revitalization Plan. We have a lot of good plans created much more recently than 1996.
Just as the city has decided to look at the overall traffic flow to make decisions about speed bumps and stop signs, the city needs to have a comprehensive plan for the whole city.
I would expect that the zoning that currently exists under existing plans would remain the same. If a homeowner built in a residential district that would not be changed to business and likewise for a business that chose to establish in a business zone it would remain a business zone. Maintaining zoning consistency makes it a safe investment for homeowners and business owners.
Linking the currently existing separate plans with a vision to create a master plan is a good idea. A master plan should include goals for pedestrian and bike friendly areas in every part of the city. We have a plan. It should include environmental goals such as preserving park space and possibly adding some. Salem has a plan. I would like to see the master plan state how it will keep our city vibrant and growing while preserving our historic streets, homes, architecture and life as we know and love it in Salem.
The city of Cambridge maximizes its businesses so that 74% of property taxes are generated by businesses. That subsidizes homeowner property taxes. Do we want to be Cambridge? Another decision to be made. We do need to think about what we want to accomplish with the 80 million plus development going on in the city. Is generating property taxes our only goal?
Many I have talked to going door to door throughout the neighborhoods like the growth, creative spaces, arts, theater, museums and restaurants in the city. They also don’t want to lose the small village feel we have. Bart Hoskins, my husband, has always said “Salem is a small village of 45,000” Lots of folks want to maintain that friendly feel we have in the city.
If a Master Plan is undertaken it will take time and need a lot of input from all over the city. It can be a vision of the city that we aim towards. Maybe this is what the City is already doing as it plans for its 400TH birthday in 2026 by asking every citizen what they want the city’s housing, transportation, recreation and infrastructure to look like in nine years. The answers to these questions can be the start of a great master plan.
Although I believe many of the goals and strategies outlined in the original Master Plan and the “observations” made in 1996 are relevant today, 20 years is too much time to have transpired without updating the plan to reflect what has been accomplished, better practices and the new challenges that Salem faces.
Salem for All Ages, the Footprint plant & long term development, the 100% clean energy resolution and Imagine Salem all need to be incorporated into a revised version of the plan.
Regarding transportation/parking, the plan is too automobile centric. Rather than connectors to 128, we need to invest in shuttles. a MBTA stop near SSU, and develop an organic approach to parking (for example, a City wide strategy for how or whether to assign resident parking).
A comprehensive housing program to include better regulation of condo conversion, in-law apartments that accommodate both family and caregivers, regulation of short term rentals and more aggressive exclusionary zoning (job training, affordable/low income, seniors and those disabled) will result in in a more stable rental market and allow people to live here long term. People who work in Salem should be able to live here. The plan states that housing in Salem is more affordable than adjacent communities and this isn’t the case today.
As we are already experiencing the effects of climate change and need to be a more sustainable and resilient community, we need to make sure all of the municipal buildings are energy efficient (solar, micro-grids, air pumps, LEDs, etc) and off shore wind is a vital component. Surrounded by communities that own their own power, this is a concept we need to explore as well.
Downtown development must incorporate the Point neighborhood better and we need to balance expansion of non-profit entities with revenue generating ones. School excellence will be determined by how our schools evolve with the demographics of Salem.