Protesters are out holding up signs opposing The Mariner, supporters are handing out buttons in favor of the project and hecklers made their feelings known at the last Zoning Board meeting by calling out things like, “the fix is in!”
An outsider might have thought there was a fierce fight destined for the polls this past Tuesday, which was Election Day for many communities, but they would be wrong. The controversy is centered on a proposal for an 87-unit assisted living facility on Pleasant Street. And only five people, the members of the Zoning Board of Appeals, will vote on whether to approve the project.
But has it ever struck a nerve.
The area 263-269 Pleasant St. sits in a single-residence district, however such a project is allowed by special permit, an issue decided by residents more than 15 years ago. In 1999 the town adopted a provision that allows for a special permit for a nursing home or assisted living facility in any district as long as it meets certain conditions. So far it seems the Mariner developers, who are all local, are meeting that threshold.
Residents have voiced concern about the impact such a large facility might have on traffic and drainage, and they are mourning the potential loss of green space. It would behoove them to keep in mind that regardless of whether the Mariner is approved, someone will develop that property. That ball is already rolling. That means the 4.5-acre parcel of currently neglected land could be home to as many as 14 houses. Think about what kind of impact that might have on traffic and drainage as well as schools, public safety and other municipal resources.
Residents have also complained that the price tag to live at the Mariner is too high and only the wealthy will be able to afford to retire there. While that might be shame, it’s not illegal. Do you think the 14 potential single-family homes will be sold at a discount?
Marblehead is lacking in senior housing — something the town said it wanted in 1999. Has that changed? Or is this a perfect sighting of that often whispered about phenomenon, NIMBY?
With the Baby Boomer generation aging, the silver tsunami is coming. Do you really want to pack your seniors, with their institutional knowledge and experience, off to another community? Is that fair because you’re worried about how long your sump pumps might run?
Many cultures honor their elders. They don’t push them out. Neither should we.