LYNNFIELD — The H2O will continue to flow at the Boston Clear Water Co.
Following nearly three hours of debate, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) agreed the commercial business that sells water in a residential zone is allowed because it predates the town’s bylaws enacted in 1926.
“There’s lots of evidence that this business existed prior to the enactment of zoning bylaws and as a result it is a grandfathered use,” said ZBA chairman Brian Shaffer.
More than five dozen proponents and opponents faced off over the future of the spring water company that has its roots going back to 1640.
Four abutters, Mary Bliss, Andrew Gallucci, Willis O’Brien, and John Sievers, alleged the firm is violating the town’s zoning bylaws.
Earlier this year, they asked the building inspector to shut the mineral spring water business down. But in a letter to the neighbors, John Roberto, Lynnfield’s building inspector, declined to close the business, noting he is not convinced the company is operating illegally.
The abutters argued if Boston Clear Water was ever allowed to operate as a pre-existing, nonconforming use prior to the adoption of zoning, those uses were abandoned for two years, and as a result it is no longer protected.
But the ZBA disagreed on that issue as well.
Anthony Gattineri, manager of Snakebite Realty LLC of Winchester, purchased the Pocahontas Spring Water Co. in 2014 for $435,000.
Some neighbors say that’s when the trouble began. They say there’s noise and bright lights that were never a part of the previous owner’s business.
Mark Stern, a four-year customer from Hamilton, said he hopes the ZBA can mitigate the issues facing the neighbors without closing the business.
“To shut down the spring would be unconscionable,” he said. “The fact that the greater good is served is important.”
A breast cancer survivor who choked back tears said the spring water has helped heal her.
“It would be a mistake to close the spring,” she said.
But Heather Sievers, whose husband, John, filed the complaint, said the purpose of the town’s zoning laws is to protect the health and welfare of residents.
“By not enforcing the zoning bylaws is not protecting Lynnfield residents,” she said. “The owner’s plan is to drive the neighbors out.”
Mary O’Brien, another neighbor who signed the complaint, said Boston Clear Water and Gattineri have turned the lives of neighbors upside down.
“This isn’t about the quality of the water, it’s about the quality of our lives,” she said. “This is a disgrace.”
Michael Villane, a Lynnfield resident, said he has no animosity toward Gattineri.
“If he wants to keep it open as it was operated like the previous owner, I would have no objection,” he said.
Pocahontas Spring Water was started in 1901 by Captain John Smith. The Smith family ran Pocahontas Spring Water from 1901-1963. The LeColst family from Middleton purchased Pocahontas Spring Water in 1963 and ran it until Gattineri purchased it.