LYNN — Ward 2 City Councilor Rick Starbard is opposed to a zoning change proposal from a developer seeking to purchase the Garelick Farms site that he says would essentially allow for the waterfront property to be turned into a “junkyard.”
A.W. Perry, a Boston real estate firm, has signed a deal to purchase the Garelick Farms plant on the Lynnway, but company representatives have said their decision to close on the property is contingent upon a proposed change in the zone ordinance that would have to be approved by the City Council.
Garelick is currently zoned to allow only dairy manufacturing. A.W. Perry representatives told the Item last month their plan is to initially use the 17-acre property for light industry with a future goal of transforming the site into a mixed-use development with waterfront apartments, retail, restaurants and possibly a hotel.
The zoning change proposed by the firm includes extending existing uses allowed in the city’s “waterfront zone 3 district,” located on the southeast side of the Lynnway, to the Garelick site. Under the proposal, the developer is seeking to allow for light manufacturing, hotels, an apartment house, assisted living facility and fitness center.
But it is other proposed added uses that Starbard takes issue with, such as a contractor’s storage yard, warehouse used for storage, ambulance service, motor vehicle storage yard, a parking lot for automobiles and commercial vehicles, and truck repair facility.
“This sends me the message that not only could the Garelick site be a junkyard, but it’s asking us to change that whole district to allow that use,” Starbard said, explaining the district also stretches around Marine Boulevard, Blossom Street and the Gas Wharf area. “It seems like everything that we don’t want down there, it would allow. The way that’s written, I would probably be opposed.”
Starbard said he couldn’t see how those uses would fit into the city’s vision, with the proposed changes coming at a time when the city is developing several master plans to reimagine its waterfront with development, parks and public access. But he is in favor of the potential of mixed-use development, retail and even manufacturing at the site.
He pointed to a controversial storage facility proposal from developer Patrick McGrath for nearby Blossom Street that was opposed by Mayor Thomas M. McGee and denied by the Zoning Board of Appeals last month because it didn’t fit the city’s vision for the waterfront. The City Council was in favor of that proposal, arguing it would generate tax revenue.
“(We) have a guy who presents a beautiful storage facility on Blossom Street — that was shot down by the mayor because he didn’t think it fit the vision for the area,” Starbard said. “This being on the water, how could it possibly fit the vision?”
But James Moore, an attorney representing A.W. Perry, said the ordinance is a draft, and is subject to change based on expected discussion with city officials. He is waiting to hear back from the city on the proposal.
“(My client) wouldn’t close on the property if he couldn’t achieve zoning relief that would allow him to rent the facility,” Moore said. “We both worked on a draft of the ordinance and are looking forward to sitting down with the city to come up with a final ordinance change that will make the city and developer happy.”
Moore said it’s a process he expects to take at least several months. Another hurdle for the developer, he said, is the site’s location next to the city’s wastewater treatment plant and transfer station. Smells coming from those facilities don’t make it economically feasible to build a mixed-use development or hotel, and would have to be remediated through technology before that vision can become possible, he said.
The site includes a 40,000-square-foot warehouse, 60,000-square-feet of cold storage, a processing plant, and a 10-acre lot at the rear of the building.
“My client is planning on using the facility as it’s been used and riding out the next few years and hopefully a higher development will become possible on the site,” Moore said. “When those uses become friendly enough for development, we’ll be able to develop it, but in the meantime, we have to be able to use the facility to generate some income, hence the zoning relief.”
But Starbard isn’t convinced.
“I know you can’t stick a five-star hotel next to a sewer treatment plant, but we also can’t allow it to be turned into a junkyard either,” he said. “If they’re going to look for a zoning change to allow these uses and once the sewer treatment plant goes away, they’ll pop up a hotel, it won’t be in my lifetime.”
McGee declined comment for this story through a spokeswoman. James Cowdell, Economic Development & Industrial Corporation of Lynn executive director, declined comment. City Council President Darren Cyr and Ward 6 Councilor Fred Hogan, who represents the area, declined comment, saying they haven’t reviewed the zoning ordinance proposal. Robert Maloney, A.W. Perry’s executive vice-president, did not return a call seeking comment.