(Spenser R. Hasak)
Business, News

Lynn junkyard shut down last year for illegal dumping now under purchase agreement

LYNN — A Western Avenue junkyard shut down by the city last year on charges of illegally dumping potentially hazardous materials on the site could soon have a new owner seeking to clean up and redevelop the property.

Raymond S. Falite has a purchase and sale agreement in place for Caps Auto Wrecking Corporation on 1069 Western Ave. But whether he closes on the sale depends on the results of an environmental analysis of the site, according to his attorney James Smith, who declined to disclose the potential purchase price. 

Smith said his client doesn't know how he would redevelop the site, which is located near the Saugus River, but housing is unlikely. 

"If he does close on the property, his goal is to clean it and bring it back to a useful site for the city," said Smith. "If it's really seriously contaminated, I don't think you could go forward.  No one really knows what's possible until you understand what's on the site and what the possibility is of it being salvaged to become useful." 

The junkyard, owned by Mark Jirtian, who lives in Florida, has been the subject of legal and environmental scrutiny for more than a decade. 

Caps Auto Wrecking is under a consent decree with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), which allowed the company to clean up the property, but only if it followed state, local, and federal laws for removing hazardous or toxic materials. 

According to the decree, MassDEP first noticed waste oil and oily soil on the property in 2004. A notice of noncompliance was issued against the property owner in 2011, and he was fined a $30,000 penalty in 2018 for failing to submit a plan to bring the site into compliance with state environmental laws. 

A $26,000 fine was later issued, but MassDEP said it would suspend that penalty if the owner met the deadline to submit a permanent or temporary solution for the site, which is coming up next month, according to Joseph Ferson, a spokesman for MassDEP. 

"It hasn't been fully cleaned up, but there's no imminent hazard," said Ferson. 

In May 2018, the City of Lynn filed an injunction against Caps Auto Wrecking, which prevented the company from operating any business at the site until all federal, state and local licenses were granted. 

Two months later, the city took further legal action, and filed a contempt motion against the junkyard in Essex Superior Court. City attorneys said that rather than complying with orders to cease operations and complete an environmental cleanup of the site, people associated with Caps were conducting auto repair work without permits and burying potentially hazardous materials on the site near the Saugus River.  

In addition, the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) filed suit against Caps in 2015 alleging the company was discharging stormwater into the Saugus River.

Clearly, there are some challenges with the site, Smith said, but his client sees potential with the property. 

"It's close to seven acres on the Saugus River in Lynn," said Smith. "There's certainly value there. It's certainly got a lot of potential, but it's really premature until we understand what's involved with the site. It's hard to know how he's going to proceed, if at all." 

Falite's intention to purchase and rehabilitate Caps is not a first for him. 

He and his brother, Jarrod R. Falite, have a business model of buying distressed property and bringing it back into use. The brothers are the owners of the former Harvard Folding Box Company building on Linden Street, which they rehabbed and now lease out to tenants. They have plans to open a cultivation business in the building. 

More Stories From Lynn