Seabrook Casino CEO gets feedback on how to develop 75-acre site
SEABROOK — The CEO of The Brook amusement arcade recently appeared before the city’s planning board to see what members would like to see built on the company’s 75-acre site off Route 107.
The response was more workforce housing, not the high-priced 332 apartments that were twice presented and rejected by the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, and a general master plan for property. .
Andre Carrier, CEO and President of Eureka Casinos and The Brook, said he left the hour-long discussion with a better understanding of his options and how to proceed with development. The property consists of dozens of acres of land that surround the old dog track. The project would be contiguous to the nation’s largest charity gaming venue.
The meeting was held on the recommendation of zoning board chairman Jeff Brown. The city’s zoning board denied the three waivers necessary for Carrier’s first vision of the project: one to allow multiple buildings on a lot, one for multi-family dwellings on a lot where that is not allowed, and one so that the structures exceed the maximum permitted heights. , or more than 30 feet in rural areas and 50 feet in industrial areas.
The luxury complex that Carrier first promoted would have rents ranging from $2,200 to $3,200 for the 304 one- and two-bedroom luxury rental apartments in three four-story buildings. The project also included 28 townhouses.
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Neighbors spoke out against the proposal, and the zoning board twice voted unanimously that the project did not meet the criteria for granting zoning relief.
Why The Brook wants to develop the property
On Nov. 7, Carrier told the Planning Board that when his family purchased the former Yankee Greyhound track in 2019, they felt “it had great promise.”
The financial potential, he said, included not only renovating the aging track into a modern venue for charity entertainment and sports betting, but also developing the considerable amount of land surrounding it, which lies just off the highway.
After the pandemic temporarily closed The Brook, Carrier said he knew he had to keep developing the property.
“What I’ve realized is entertainment revenue can drop to zero,” Carrier told the Planning Board. “So I need to expand, and that’s what 70 acres is all about.”
What planning committee members want to see built
Planning Board member Mike Lowry said one of the problems with Carrier’s original proposal was high rents. The city needs workers, Lowry said, and those workers need housing at affordable rents.
“I don’t want to waste your time,” Lowry said. “A lot of residents are watching (what you proposed). It was more expensive housing that people who live in this town cannot afford.
Carrier said he was initially hesitant to offer to build “workforce housing”, due to inherent issues with terminology.
“Some people see workforce housing and jump to ‘affordable housing,’ which leads to a whole host of issues,” Carrier said. “Labour housing should be a component of that housing. Workforce housing, which means reduced rent.
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Carrier said he’s ready to cut rents on some of the apartments in an area that working families can afford. The way to do this – while still allowing his business to cover costs and make a profit – would be to “offset” labor units with market-rate units with higher rents. However, he added, given the inflated cost of construction these days and the difficulties the land itself presents, it will be an expensive property to develop. So calculating the ratio of labor housing to market price housing would be the problem, he said, and would require a significant number of units for it to work.
Lowry and Selectman Aboul Khan also suggested that Carrier draw up a master plan for how he hopes to develop the entire acreage surrounding The Brook, not just the section he would like to dedicate to housing. Khan said developers often come to council with a plan for the property which will be developed in phases, so the council can consider all aspects of its uses.
Lowry agreed, adding that giving the community “an overview” of what is planned for the land will be more productive than piecemeal planning.
Urban planner Tom Morgan offered another advantage for a comprehensive development scenario. If Carrier could bring a full package, the planning board “really likes it but doesn’t quite respect the zoning,” Morgan said, the board “could help bring it to the town hall,” and deviations would not be necessary.
Other ideas, concerns regarding The Brook’s development have been raised
Planning Council members said anything going on there should not overburden city services, which a large influx of people can cause to police, firefighters, the school system and the water supply. water.
Some members also came up with ideas for the site, such as setting aside land for a public park for neighbors and townspeople to use, complete with sports fields and a conservation area. And everything on it, said member Dennis Sweeney, should be “visually appealing” and not have “tons and tons of hardtop”.
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Member Jason Janvrin said setting aside an area for “a charter school” might be a plus. And Janvrin and Khan said the city might consider Carrier’s proposal sympathetically if the city were allowed to explore and secure the rights to new public water sources.
Carrier said he appreciated the board’s input.
“It helps me so much to make a soup that you come back with,” Carrier said as he thanked the members for their time. “It’s a great discussion.”