Michael Lee

Project Summer Hill

Location Manchester-by-the-Sea, Mass. | Architect Siemasko + Verbridge, Beverly, Mass. Builder Windover Construction, Beverly Sales Price $1.2 million to $1.8 millionSite 14 acresProject Size 2,500 square feet to 3,700 square feet

President of Windover Construction, Lee Dellicker bought a pretty piece of property in his neighborhood that was the site of an old hilltop estate with water views and deeded beach access. Walking distance to the quaint village of Manchester-by-the-Sea and a short train ride from Boston, it was a prime spot. Dellicker bought the land with profitable development in mind, but he wanted to create a project that also enhanced his community.

Zoning In

Lee Dellicker understands that some zoning laws should and can be changed. It’s all in the approach. “These laws are very generic and not all rules work in every case,” he explains. “If you show the city why the law doesn’t work, they’ll usually change it or give variances.” He advises clear communication and patience when trying to change rules as zoning boards often are made up of volunteers who may or may not have industry knowledge. “Overstate and overcommunicate why certain features are important,” he says. In this project, the board wanted a driveway near a river to be removed. But Dellicker proposed to keep it, using those funds to restore the riverfront with more plantings.

The 14-acre property had been permitted by previous owners for 36 affordable units. The builder knew both the zoning board and area residents would object to a project of that scale, but he needed enough houses to make economic sense. Dellicker also knew that a cluster law had passed a while ago that would yield the density he needed while maintaining the natural beauty of the site. “In exchange for deeding 60 percent or more to conservation, the law lets you take what you would have developed on the site and compress it,” Dellicker explains, “but it was fairly restrictive.”

The law didn’t allow for coastal wetlands to count as open space, for example, so he worked with the zoning board to change restrictions and ordinances, resulting in 12 single-family houses that make up the new Summer Hill community. “We built on 4 acres, approximately, with lot sizes ranging from 8,000 to 12,000 square feet,” Dellicker says, “but because the houses sit in the middle of this natural setting it feels like much more space.”

Alpinax Drone Services, Alpinax.com
Alpinax Drone Services, Alpinax.com

Architect Thad Seimasko worked with Windover to design houses that balance close proximity with open surroundings. Grouping houses in a loose oval means every backyard extends into the conservation lands. Screened porches take advantage of parklike plots while front porches foster community bonding.

Each home’s privacy factor is further enhanced because Seimasko made sure neighboring windows, driveways, and living spaces never face one another. Earthen berms were added to the central common space so front porches are screened by the natural landscaping from houses across the circle. “We really worked with land contours to get buildings sited in a way that creates natural privacy,” Seimasko says, “because if you can design privacy into the architecture then it’s OK to have close neighbors.”