Marblehead says no to assisted living facility: a pyrrhic victory?

To the surprise of many, after several months of discussions and modifications, and after approval was granted by the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to deny the application to build the proposed Mariner assisted living facility. I do not have the expertise to comment on many aspects of this decision, but I can ask the question: will this decision prove to be a pyrrhic victory* for the neighbors? Or, in the words of the editorial in this week’s Marblehead Reporter: “Be careful what you wish for.”

Let me say at the outset that I have no horse in this race and have not spoken to representatives from either side, but I am not alone in being puzzled by the sudden end to a lengthy process. For a more informed commentary read
Marblehead ZBA decision leaves many baffled from the Marblehead Reporter. And also from the Reporter read Dawn Bucket’s scathing comments in Gang of 5 makes assisted living decision.

Because the developers were not given the opportunity to withdraw the application without prejudice – the usual practice –  no new proposal for an assisted living facility can be submitted for two years. But the developers have invested a large sum in this project and it would be no surprise to see them return with a proposal for single family homes – or a 40B project which could potentially include many more units. Either of these would seem likely to produce more traffic and more strain on the town’s resources than an assisted living facility.

And if the neighbors chose to fight again, the process could drag on for some time, creating uncertainty which may well have an impact on property prices in the neighborhood.

*The phrase Pyrrhic victory is named after king Pyrrhus of Epirus, whose army suffered irreplaceable casualties in defeating the Romans at Heraclea in 280 BC and Asculum in 279 BC during the Pyrrhic War. After the latter battle, Plutarch relates in a report by Dionysius: The armies separated; and, it is said, Pyrrhus replied to one that gave him joy of his victory that one other such victory would utterly undo him.

More commonly, the term refers to a victory won at “too great a cost to have been worthwhile for the victor”.

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Andrew Oliver is a Realtor with Harborside Sotheby’s International Realty. Each Office Is Independently Owned and Operated