Peabody mayor encourages council to approve AAA facility

Mayor Edward Bettencourt Jr., has asked the City Council to reconsider its rejection of a AAA Northeast trucking terminal off Route 1 North in the Lawrence Metal Forming lot. (Spenser R. Hasak)

PEABODY — Mayor Edward Bettencourt, hoping to avoid another costly lawsuit, has asked the City Council to reconsider its rejection of a AAA Northeast trucking terminal off Route 1 North.

In January, the 11-member panel unanimously said no to the auto club’s proposal to turn the Lawrence Metal Forming Corp. property on Leland Park Drive into a truck maintenance facility for four dozen tow trucks. AAA bought the building in July for $2.6 million.

Before the vote, neighbors on Forest Street and nearby truck companies, such as FedEx, told the council that more trucks will exacerbate traffic problems in an already congested part of the city. 

In denying the special permit, the council said there’s no need for a truck terminal in that location; it will add to traffic problems, and could lead to illegal cut-throughs at the Mobil Mart creating a public safety problem. 

Within minutes of the vote, AAA’s attorney John Keilty vowed  to file suit against the city in Land Court. In its complaint, AAA argued zoning allowed for such a facility and urged the judge to overturn to the council vote. 

Last summer, Judge Howard Speicher ordered the council to reconsider its vote.

In August, the panel rejected the special permit for a second time. City Councilor-at-Large Anne Manning Martin was the sole vote in favor.

“In rehearing AAA’s proposal, they convinced me their business provides a desirable local need and is in harmony with the surrounding area which meets our special permit criteria,” she said. “The mayor agrees with me.”

But City Council President said the rules to reconsider a special permit requires a two year wait.

“There’s nothing we can do for now,” he said.

In a letter to the council last month, Bettencourt urged the panel to issue the special permit to AAA because “I’m concerned the city may not prevail in the pending litigation.”  

The AAA case comes on the heels of a $1.2 million payment to a developer to settle a dispute over the historic O’Shea mansion. 

At the time, Bettencourt said he was certain the city had a strong case.  But a federal judge refused the city’s request to dismiss the complaint and the City Council approved the funds behind closed doors.

Bettencourt did not respond to calls or text messages seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for John Nardolillo, AAA’s senior vice president for members services, said he could not comment.

Donald L. Conn Jr., the city’s assistant city solicitor, did not return calls from The Item.

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