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Lynn ZBA denies Lynnway storage facility proposal, doesn’t fit waterfront vision

LYNN — Despite unanimous support from the City Council for a six-story storage facility Lynnway developer Patrick McGrath proposed to build on Blossom Street, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted to deny the project on Tuesday night because it didn’t fit in with their vision for the city’s waterfront district.

The ZBA voted, 4-1, to deny a variance that would have allowed McGrath to build a 100,000 square-foot facility at 164 Blossom St., located half a block from the Lynnway, essentially killing plans for the project.

The site has less than the required open space for the waterfront district overlapping the Lynnway.

Jeanne Curley, a member of the ZBA, said she thought the city wanted the Lynnway to be a gateway for Lynn, where people would drive through and see beauty. A storage facility is not beauty, she said.

“It’s bad enough to have a Walmart — this to me, is just another giant, awful thing,” she said. “It just does not belong in the city. It’s right on the Lynnway. All you’re going to see is that eyesore.”

The denial came after a lengthy public hearing in front of a packed room at City Hall, which featured a heavy show of support for the project from members of the City Council, business owners in the city and friends of McGrath, who argued the project would generate much-needed tax revenue for the city.

McGrath said he had no comment on the denial, but before the vote he said the project would have been good for the city, considering its current financial state. Figures he submitted to the board estimated the $18 million to $20 million project would have generated $700,000 to $800,000 in annual property tax revenue.

Norman Cole was the only ZBA member who voted against a denial of the variance, saying that the city needs to look at ways to increase its commercial tax base.

The ZBA opted to vote along the lines of an argument from Mayor Thomas M. McGee, who appeared before the board to speak against the project, saying Lynn should not settle for anything less than the vision it has for the waterfront district.

The parcel in question, the mayor said, is a transit-oriented development site, with unlimited potential, citing its proximity to the commuter rail and ferry terminal.

“This is all about us having a vision for Lynn,” McGee said. “The decisions we make now have an impact in our community for decades to come. Approving these kinds of proposals exhibits a substantial lack of vision of what Lynn could be, and what the citizens deserve it to be.

“I do not think this proposal makes Lynn a better place to live, work, or raise a family. It is imperative that we think big and create a vision that improves every neighborhood in our community. Lynn should not settle.”

The proposal for the facility comes at a time when city officials are overseeing two master planning processes for a waterfront they envision would feature parks, public access and new development all coming together.

McGrath’s attorney, Paul Keating, said the Blossom Street property currently provides $32,000 a year in taxes. The facility would have been needed, he said, because future tenants of apartments being built on Munroe Street and the Lynnway are going to need storage space.

The project garnered support from the City Council. A letter in favor of the facility was submitted to the board and numerous councilors spoke in support before the vote.

City Council President Darren Cyr has said a higher use of the site, such as a hotel or another more complex development, would be years away because of the potential environmental cleanup related to industrial and automotive repair contamination on the site.

Cyr said the project made sense for the city because of its estimated tax revenue with the city’s current financial woes, and it would help move the city forward. The project wouldn’t have been an ugly building, he said, but rather a “state-of-the-art facility.”

“This is a depressed area,” Cyr said. “We have to start somewhere and this is a perfect opportunity to start developing that neighborhood.”

McGrath paid $1.1 million for the Blossom Street property, the site of the former Lynnway Truck Center, which moved to Alley and Commercial streets.

McGrath has more than $300 million worth of property in development in Lynn. Those projects include a plan to redevelop the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market into 550 apartments and transform the former Porthole Pub into 55 luxury apartments on the Lynnway.

 

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