Two Candidates – One Question
Lovely and Peterson On The Commercial/Residential Balance
PHOTO – Aerial view of Salem Hospital and Highland Avenue c. 1920
We asked both of the Ward 3 City Council candidates that the same question. It is is greatly appreciated that both incumbent Stephen Lovely and challenger Lisa Peterson agreed to answer us.
The question is.
“Ward 3 features quite a bit of commercial properties, especially along Highland Avenue and parts of Boston Street and Jefferson Avenue. Mixed in are lots of residential areas that are impacted daily by traffic and other residual effects that result from these commercial corridors. Do you feel that the City has been considerate enough of the balance between the businesses and the residents, is there a better way to ensure quality of life for those who choose to live in Ward 3?”
Ward 3 does contain several areas where commercial properties are in close proximity to residential neighborhoods. I have spent my entire life in Ward 3 and I am well aware of their location as well as the impacts these commercial properties have on the nearby residents.
The optimal means to ensure the quality of life for residents that abut a commercial area and to establish a balance between those commercial property owners and the abutting residents is to have an experienced city Councillor willing to roll up his or her sleeves to tackle these neighborhood issues head-on. During my term as the Ward 3 City Councillor I have devoted considerable time to improving the quality of life in all neighborhoods including those that are in close proximity to commercial enterprises.
Foe example as Ward 3 City Councillor, I introduced and the City Council passed my amendment to the Entrance Corridor Overlay District (ECOD) that established Jefferson Avenue as an entrance corridor. Jefferson Avenue certainly qualifies as an area that contains a great deal of commercial property in close proximity to residential neighborhoods.
The purpose of my effort was to protect and enhance Jefferson Avenue as a major entrance way into the City and to ensure that any commercial development on Jefferson Avenue in the future is improved in a manner which is in the best interest of the residential neighborhood.
Commercial development on Jefferson Avenue will now be controlled by regulations including a limitation on curb cuts, a prohibition on refuse storage or mechanical equipment areas located in a front yard or within twenty-five (25) feet of the front lot line of the side yard. Any future commercial development will be required to have screening from all public ways, for all and screening for all parking areas, to shield residential land uses and open space areas.
Future commercial development in the Jefferson Avenue corridor will be required to maintain and maximize aesthetic views and sight lines. All fences along the front and side lot lines will be no more than four (4) feet in height. Chain link and wire fences will be prohibited along front and side lot lines.
Several current commercial enterprises on Jefferson Avenue have already voluntarily accepted this change and have stated their willingness to come into compliance to be a better neighbor with the surrounding residential community.
By working with the neighbors along the Jefferson Avenue corridor we are able to shut down an illegal metal recycling operation that was an eyesore for the neighborhood as well as exacerbating traffic problems on Jefferson Avenue.
By being proactive city officials can work with neighbors to preempt and deter unwanted commercial activity such as the proposed Halloween attraction proposed for the commercial property at 1 Jefferson Avenue that would’ve been a parking and traffic disaster for the abutting neighbors.
Neighborhood communication with city officials helped deter the proposed Cineplex on Highland Avenue which would have crippled already congested traffic on the upper end of Highland Avenue and the surrounding neighborhoods. The neighborhoods are constantly reaching out to city officials and relying on their assistance in rejecting projects that are not compatible with residential neighborhood concerns. We as city officials must retain this communication link with the residential property owners that abut existing and proposed commercial development
It is essential that city officials reach out to establish communication with and form strong partnerships with owners of commercial property that abut residential neighborhoods. A partnership such as the one the city has with Home Depot which abuts the Fafard condominium complex is an example of such a successful partnership. Home Depot understands that they must maintain the commercial property that they own and Home Depot consistently works with city officials to ensure that they are good neighbor to the abutting residential community.
The best way to ensure quality of life for residents that abut a commercial area and to establish a balance between the commercial property owners and the abutting residents is to have an experienced city Councillor willing to roll up his or her sleeves who can be there voice at City Hall and be willing to tackle these neighborhood issues head-on.
I believe we can do so much better to consider the opinions and perspectives of Ward 3 residents when it comes to all city matters, including development and the impact of that development on residential neighborhoods. Compared with the other wards throughout Salem, Ward 3 is particularly disorganized. We have one neighborhood association – the Greater Endicott Street Neighborhood Association – that covers a small corner of the ward, and the rest of Ward 3 is unrepresented by any formal neighborhood association.
Through thousands of conversations I have had with neighbors throughout our ward over the past 8 months, I have learned that many Ward 3 residents do not reach out to our current ward councilor when they have concerns and questions, since they may not realize that is an option, and they do not have a sense of whether their own perspective lines up with that of their neighbors. My goal is to work with neighbors throughout Ward 3 to organize ourselves into neighborhood groups. In this way, we can take advantage of the opportunity to meet with each other in person, as well as leverage modern technology to communicate together about topics concerning our neighborhoods. I plan to be proactive in regularly communicating with our ward about upcoming meetings and opportunities relevant to our neighborhood concerns, as well as sharing info about fun and interesting ways to engage with our city and our neighbors throughout the ward. Many throughout Ward 3 do not take advantage of our vibrant downtown offerings or engage in community meetings, not only because of our traffic and parking challenges, but also because of lack of information about upcoming events and opportunities.
I have met many neighbors who have been confused about development in their neighborhoods in recent years, and do not have a full understanding about what is happening around them or how to express concerns about those projects. My goal is to ensure that development that happens in Ward 3 and throughout Salem is fully community vetted and that Ward 3 residents are kept apprised as projects progress. In recent years, development that has occurred and is occurring in Ward 3 has moved forward without all neighbors having their questions answered about the projects. While reaching all residents of the ward with information can certainly be a challenge, it is a challenge I am committed to – it is critical to ensuring that we have a strong collective voice.
For example, many residents remain very concerned about the long-proposed cineplex project along Highland Avenue. In spite of the fact that the project has not moved forward at all, demolition recently occurred on the site for safety reasons, and neighbors have been left wondering about whether construction is imminent (it is not). Additionally, a variety of building projects have caused anxiety and frustration between neighbors who do not have any information about details.
It is very important that we consider all related impacts of development projects – traffic, parking, sidewalk and road conditions, congestion, environmental and tax implications all affect neighborhood quality of life, and creating a variety of opportunities for residents to learn about them and share their thoughts with our city will improve the impacts of the projects, and life in general, for us throughout the ward. I look forward to creating these opportunities and to speaking up as the strong, representative voice of Ward 3.