June 27, 2008

It’s Plane to See: Seniors and Airport Might Not Mix

By Cate Lecuyer, The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.

Jun. 27--BEVERLY -- A proposed senior housing development in the Cherry Hill Industrial Park would be directly beneath the flight path at Beverly Airport, the chairman of the airport commission says.

"We're not for or against this project, but want to point out a couple concerns," Paul Vitale said.

During a meeting this week with the Zoning Board of Appeals, which has oversight on parts of the project, Vitale pointed to a map highlighting the north-to-south runway. A straight line from the runway runs about 900 feet to the left of where Oregon-based Holiday Retirement wants to build 238 senior citizen apartments in five buildings in the industrial park.

Safety and noise are two potential problems, Vitale said. Because the land is so close to the airport, developers would have to meet regulations and receive approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, particularly regarding height restrictions of buildings. Melissa LeClerc, a representative from the project's design company, Curry Architecture, said their engineers are prepared to work with engineers from the FAA.

With experience designing more than 300 similar housing projects across the country, many of them next to airports, train stations and highways, she said her firm understands the process.

"We're happy with the location," she said.

However, airport commissioner Paul Barnico wondered if the people living there would feel the same way once they heard the planes flying overhead.

"The face of this building would be facing the takeoff area," he said. The airport recorded about 70,000 corporate jets taking off and landing during April. On a Saturday afternoon, there could be 10 single-engine planes taking off and landing in an hour, as students practice their techniques, he said.

"These people are living here 24 hours a day," he said. "It just reeks of an unhappy neighborhood once it's built."

LeClerc said there are ways to alleviate concerns.

"We could have residents sign a waiver stating they understand the noise implications," she said. Vitale said the development could also include noise-reducing elements, like special insulation on the widows.

The zoning board requested more information about the project and FAA regulations for its next meeting.


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