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City Council approves three plans aimed at transforming Lynn’s waterfront

LYNN — Three cohesive plans aimed at reimagining the waterfront with parks, public access and development were approved by the City Council on Tuesday night. 

The next step is for the panel to work with Mayor Thomas M. McGee to adopt zoning changes that would allow for the implementation of the three documents: the updated Waterfront Master Plan, amended Municipal Harbor Plan and Waterfront Open Space Master Plan. 

“All three plans really are interconnected in so many different ways,” said McGee. “They’re critical for creating opportunity for development on our waterfront, and at the same time, carrying out our community’s vision for that area, which will include substantial open space. (They) allow us together to create action that addresses and moves forward our vision for what we see as the future of our waterfront.” 

Some of the large-scale visions in the open space plan, prepared by Brown, Richardson + Rowe, include connecting the entire waterfront, with a promenade, or paved boardwalk; transforming the city’s former landfill into a public park, which would feature live events and entertainment; and linking the waterfront to the downtown.

But there are challenges. 

There’s a large gas tank in the middle of the site, which could hinder the creation of a continuous boardwalk, said Clarissa Rowe, a principal at Brown, Richardson + Rowe, landscape architect and planning firm. In the spring, she said implementing the open space plan, which includes making necessary repairs to deteriorating infrastructure, is projected to cost $22 million. 

The Waterfront Master Plan is focused on transforming the city’s 305-acre waterfront site with residential, commercial, and industrial development. The Municipal Harbor Plan states a municipality’s goals, standards and policies to guide public and private land use among harbors. 

Both were prepared by Utile Inc. following more than a year of public meetings. The Boston-based urban design and architecture firm was hired by the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. of Lynn (EDIC/Lynn).

“The (Waterfront) Master Plan is really an update to the 2007 master plan, which was conducted by Sasaki (Associates Inc.), which presented a very bold vision for the waterfront, but it was very difficult to implement for various reasons,” said Matthew Littell, principal at Utile Inc. 

“This plan represents an effort to create a much more flexible, realistic, and implementable framework that will support the open space plan,” he said. 

For instance, one goal of the waterfront master plan is creating a mixed-use district that provides public access to the waterfront for everyone and works for housing, commercial, industrial and retail purposes, according to Littell. 

Tucked into the Municipal Harbor Plan amendment is three pages worth of 10 zoning changes proposed by Utile. On Tuesday, the council voted to accept the plan with the exception of those pages. 

James Lamanna, assistant city solicitor, is preparing a separate document of proposed zoning changes that will be presented to the City Council by their next meeting on Sept. 24, which will likely incorporate Utile’s recommendations, with modifications. But the panel is not expected to vote on the changes until late October. 

For instance, City Council President Darren Cyr said he would like to see a higher minimum height requirement than three stories, which was proposed in one of the waterfront zoning districts, WF1. Ongoing landfill capping that needs to be completed before a park could be created could reach heights of 70 feet, he said, which would likely eliminate ocean views for three-story buildings.

But Littell said requiring something higher could present a challenge. The district, WF1, allows for 20-story buildings by right. 

Negotiations over proposed zoning changes for the Garelick Farms site remain ongoing between the city and A.W. Perry, the firm that has a purchase and sale agreement for the property. The site is currently zoned for dairy manufacturing only. 

Utile’s recommended zoning changes for the site don’t include many uses the firm was seeking earlier this year. The firm has said closing on property is contingent upon approval of its requested zoning relief. 

Jonathon Feinberg, a member of New Lynn Coalition, which consists of community and labor organizations, was the only resident to speak in opposition to the waterfront plans. 

“I have to speak against the adoption of any development plan that excludes a vast majority of the residents of Lynn,” he said. “We believe in housing for all of us. We want to see this city develop in a way that represents all of us, and frankly, this plan by the exclusion of any affordable component whatsoever hurts our city and will continue to hurt our city moving forward.” 

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