75-unit development on the docket in Pembroke

Monitor staff
Friday, December 01, 2017

Neighboring towns will get to weigh in Tuesday on a blockbuster housing development proposed in Pembroke.

The Billerica, Mass.-based developer Keystone Pembroke LLC, owned by Bob MacCormack, is proposing to build 18 4-plexes and three single-family houses, a total of 75 homes, according the Pembroke planning board’s notice of regional impact. The parcel the company is proposing to develop occupies 89 forested acres between Pembroke Pines Country Club and the White Sands Conservation area.

In its application to the planning board, Keystone says it would build on 23 ½ acres of the lot, reserve 32 acres for future use with the neighboring Pembroke Pines Country Club – which it also owns – and donate 33 acres to the town’s conservation commission.

A zoning board decision to green-light the Keystone project has been appealed by neighbors to superior court. Amy Manzelli, an environmental attorney who lives on Ross Road, a street nearby to the project, is contesting the ZBA’s decision.

In court filings, Manzelli argues that the board erred when it gave the developer a special exception – instead of a variance – to build units with four dwellings each. She’s also said the project, which is located in an Aquifer Conservation District, requires a special exception application that considers the proposal’s potential impact on groundwater and aquifer storage.

The parties made oral arguments in mid-October, and are awaiting a decision from the court. Manzelli has written to the planning board to contest the project, saying it shouldn’t be hearing the case until the court case is settled.

MacCormack has tried to develop the parcel before. In February 2016, more than 100 residents turned out to oppose a 186-unit proposal on the lot. The zoning board turned down the project.

Planning board Chairman Alan Topliff said people often ask him whether he can just turn down a project they don’t like. He said he warns them that unless the plan doesn’t meet state laws and the town’s zoning, the board’s hands are tied.

“We have no right, no basis whatsoever to say, ‘No, you can’t develop your land,’ ” he said.

The Keystone project isn’t the only major housing development on the docket in Pembroke. DHB Homes, a Londonderry-based company, has pitched a 110-unit subdivision to stretch from Broadway to Academy Road, between the Merrimack River and the existing string of houses that line the south side of Route 3.

After months of negotiations with the planning board over where to build a new road into the subdivision from Route 3, the project was slated to be back on the agenda Tuesday. Topliff said he understood the developer had asked for a continuance.

Topliff said he’d been on the planning board for about a decade. This is the busiest he’s been.

“I’ve never seen this number of housing units being proposed in Pembroke,” he said.

He noted a New Ipswich developer had also come to speak to the board in October about a potential 30-lot subdivision on Fourth Range Road. (A formal application has not yet been filed.)

The planning board hearing is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Pembroke town hall.


(Lola Duffort can be reached at 369-3321 or lduffort@cmonitor.com.)

Editor’s note: Amy Manzelli, her husband, and three others are contesting the ZBA’s decision in court. An earlier version of this article misreported the number of plaintiffs.