There will be no taller buildings in downtown Ipswich this year. This is after the Planning Board dropped the new height limits in an effort to increase the number of residents residing in downtown, which includes the central business as well as the general business districts. The move is ideally meant to give more residents a place to live, give landlords additional income and to ostensibly reduce rents on downtown businesses and commercial space.
Plans to provide off-space parking in downtown are expected to feature in the upcoming Town Meeting, where any changes are expected to be approved prior to becoming law. The meeting is scheduled to take place on 8th May at Ipswich High School.
Any parking changes will be allowed via special permit, and they will only apply to mixed-use buildings. These are buildings that combine both residential housing and commercial spaces. The process needs a public hearing as well as approval from the Planning Board.
That is the only way the town can allow additional housing in downtown devoid of onsite parking. Presently, the town only provides commercial spaces with offsite parking. According to Heidi Paek, who is the chairman of the Planning Board, all this will be done through a special permit and nothing will happen fast.
Initial plans fall flat
Initially, the Planning Board planned to present the Town Meeting with additional offsite parking as well as increased height. Board members however unanimously withdrew the height changes, in fear that the Town Meeting would reject the whole downtown package.
According to the Board’s Vice Chairman, Keith Anderson, the decision was made due to the fact that the Planning Board doesn’t want to lose both the parking and density changes due to height,
Ethan Parsons, the Board’s senior planner, noted that the Planning Board wasn’t sure about the proposed height and parking changes. Additionally, the Chairman of the Board of selectmen, Bill Craft, noted that increasing the building height would be controversial.
Further, Selectman William Whitmore added that the Planning Board risked losing the whole package due to increased building height.
Off-site parking will be discussed at the Town Meeting. The Planning Board didn’t anticipate that a couple of residential units would be included this year due to more liberal parking needs for residential housing, particularly in mixed-use buildings.
Any housing unit added via offsite parking will require an additional size of 3,000 sq. ft. The aim is to ensure all occupants have access to designated parking. These changes are expected to help property owners use their buildings to the full benefit of their businesses, especially on the 1st floor.