Published November 28, 2018
By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The Bali Hai Restaurant is staying put.
The Zoning Board of Appeals rejected Lynnfield-based developers Matt and David Palumbo’s proposal to construct a two-story, 23-unit apartment building at the 160 Moulton Dr. property on Nov. 20. While ZBA members Anthony Moccia and Anders Youngren voted in favor of the developers’ request for a Special Permit, ZBA Chairman Brian Shaffer voted no.
State law requires three-member ZBAs such as Lynnfield’s to unanimously approve requests for zoning relief such as Special Permits or variances.
The Palumbo brothers originally proposed building a 32-unit apartment building, but the developers reduced the size of the project to 23 units in September. The developers requested a Special Permit in order to change the preexisting nonconforming use from a restaurant to an apartment building. The developers’ attorney, Ted Regnante, argued the project would be less detrimental to the area.
Opponents rip project
After the ZBA previously gave supporters an opportunity to weigh in on the project at the Sept. 25 meeting, opponents aired their concerns last week. Abutters and neighboring residents repeatedly ripped the project for an hour-and-a-half.
David Trefry, 5 Locksley Rd., said the apartment building would have a negative impact on the neighborhood.
“This new apartment building is a completely different nonconforming use than Bali Hai,” said Trefry. “Its effect on the neighborhood would be completely different and more detrimental than Bali Hai ever was. There would be parking problems and traffic problems when there have been none. There will be more noise, more trash, more cars and lots more people. People will be drinking and partying at Newhall Park and on the shore of the reservoir (Suntaug Lake). Renters don’t care like owners do when it comes to taking care of property. There will be lots of unattended consequences if this apartment building is approved.”
Heather Doyle, 4 Oak St., concurred with Trefry’s opinion.
“I live directly across the street from the Bali Hai,” said Doyle. “We are fighting for the sanctity and value of our homes. We need neighbors, not noise. Bali Hai today, with its shortcomings, is a quiet neighbor. Cars come and go at a very slow pace. It’s as quiet as a church at 10 p.m. We have quiet mornings and quiet evenings. We will lose that when 23 neighbors move in. I find it detrimental.”
Patrick Curley, 26 Locksley Rd., submitted a number of letters from residents opposing the apartment building project. He said the project would be “substantially more detrimental” to the neighborhood.
“The proposed apartment building is significantly larger and denser than the existing use,” said Curley. “This looming massive apartment building is going to have a much bigger change on the neighborhood. The neighborhood is single-family residences. That is the character of the neighborhood and this proposal would change the character of the neighborhood.”
Curley also said the apartment building would have a negative effect on the Fire Department, Police Department and School Department. He also expressed concerns about the apartment building’s residents doing drugs and vaping at Newhall Park. He maintained that the apartment building would cause more crime in the neighborhood as well parking and traffic issues.
Brad Keene, 76 Locksley Rd., argued the town’s Zoning Bylaw “prohibits apartments” and said the property should be developed into four single-family homes.
“Apartments, by their very nature, would be a detriment to the surrounding area,” said Keene.
Keene said Peabody should weigh in on the project because the apartment building would abut the city’s water supply, Suntaug Lake. He also said it would have a negative impact on wildlife particularly bald eagles and great blue heron.
“The Bali Hai is not conducive to an apartment complex,” said Keene. “You are talking about a sea change. A 20-plus unit apartment complex just doesn’t fit.”
Pam Watkins, 1 Locksley Rd., expressed concerns about the apartment building’s impact on the school system.
“As a young working professional, I can’t imagine paying as much as these apartments are proposed to cost to live as far outside of the city that you would be, with no access to public transportation or amenities, unless you were planning to enroll your kids in school here,” said Watkins. “It would add stress to the school system. I am worried that the price point of these apartments would leave them unoccupied or force the owners to lower the price in order to fill them, which would attract residents we would not want in our neighborhood.”
While virtually all of the residents in attendance said they opposed the project, Joseph Lane resident Carl LaGreca urged the opponents to reconsider their opinions. He said the town’s older residents could move to the apartment building in order to downsize.
“Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t know,” said LaGreca.
ZBA rejects project
After residents weighed in on the apartment building proposal, the ZBA deliberated on the project for an hour.
ZBA member Anders Youngren argued concerns about traffic were being exaggerated.
“I live on a dead-end road and there are 20 houses on the road,” said Youngren. “I never have a traffic jam on my road and there is never a traffic jam when I am coming onto Main Street. I think the traffic concerns are overblown. I think the petitioners have come up with a pretty comprehensive traffic study.”
While ZBA Chairman Brian Shaffer said, “The traffic issue is not a substantial problem,” he expressed concerns about the apartment building being located in a residential neighborhood. He said a restaurant would be less detrimental to the surrounding area.
“The question before us is whether a change from a restaurant to an apartment building is substantially more detrimental,” said Shaffer. “The intent of our bylaw is to not allow apartment buildings. We are bedroom community of single-family homes. You have got a very large structure in a neighborhood where there are no large structures. I think it changes the character of the neighborhood. I think it’s a substantial change.”
“I would argue the proposed use is less detrimental because you are moving it towards a residential use in a residential neighborhood,” said Youngren. “I don’t see how 23 apartments is that much different than 23 houses on a dead-end road as far as traffic goes.”
ZBA member Anthony Moccia echoed Youngren’s viewpoint.
“Apartments aren’t compatible with single-family homes, but they are less incompatible than a restaurant,” said Moccia.
After a lengthy discussion, Moccia and Youngren voted for the Special Permit request while Shaffer voted no.
Atty. Ted Regnante, who is representing the Palumbo brothers, provided the following statement on the ZBA’s decision.
“We were disappointed that we did not receive the unanimous vote of the ZBA allowing the change in use from the Bali Hai to a two-story, 23-unit apartment building, which meets all dimensional requirements,” said Regnante. “It was clear to our team that the new use is not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing restaurant, but one member of the board did not agree with us. My clients are exploring their options including whether to appeal the ZBA decision to the Land Court.”
Last June, Matthew Palumbo said the developers could put in a new a restaurant at the property if the ZBA rejects the apartment building project.