Published in the October 14, 2015 edition


LYNNFIELD — Prior to an update given on the status of the Perley Burrill property at 906-914 Salem St., during last week’s selectmen’s meeting, Selectman Tom Terranova recused himself citing a prior professional relationship with the property owner, Joe Pedoto. Terranova had served as his accountant.

As Terranova got up to leave, resident Mark McDonough asked Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford why Selectman Chris Barrett remained seated at the table. “Mr. Barrett is still sitting here. He is a direct abutter of Perley Burrill. He has to leave the room,” he said.

Barrett responded, “Not at all. I’m a resident of Lynnfield.”

“You’re a direct abutter. You have to leave the room or I will file a complaint,” McDonough said.

“File one,” Barrett said.

McDonough countered that he will “ask for an expedited hearing,” adding, “As you know and I pointed out to you over a year ago, the Ethics Commission says the appearance of a conflict is a conflict.”

Crawford told McDonough his objection had been noted, ended the discussion and proceeded to give an update on the dilapidated property once touted as the oldest filling station in the country. Pedoto owes the town over $170,000 in back taxes going back eight years.

Receivership possible

Crawford outlined the progress that the town hopes to make in the next several weeks starting with a meeting arranged with the holder of the “million dollar mortgage” on the property. This meeting is being arranged with the assistance of state Rep. Brad Jones and the Bank of America lobbyists that work at the State House, he said.

“They have agreed to come to the table and make adjustments to this (mortgage)” Crawford said, adding the town hopes the bank “will forgive this mortgage and let the town work with the developer and the owners to try to move forward.”

Pedoto and the developer who is interested in the site refuses to put “any more money into the property until they can be assured that the bank will back off of their mortgage and make it free and clear for them to do some work on it,” Crawford said.

If the bank refuses to budge, Crawford said the town is prepared to pursue legal action seeking to put the site into “receivership” to enable the court to appoint a receiver to work on the property “on the town’s behalf without the town taking any liability, which is the big reason we don’t take it directly ourselves. If that can be arranged, the receiver will have those buildings demolished and removed. And they will lien the property for the cost of that,” he said.

“The town cannot relinquish the taxes. We get paid no matter what. We’re always first on the list. Anything the court orders and gets done would be secondary to us,” Crawford explained.

The final step is to determine whether any “long-term pollution and environmental hazards” exist on the property,” he said, but this cannot be done until “the property is secured and we can have it tested. That’s all going to be rolling in the next week or two,” the chairman stated.

The town knows that at least one building, the main building, contains asbestos. The cost to demolish a building without asbestos is about $10,000, Crawford said, but it jumps to about $50,000 if asbestos remediation has to be done.

Winter timeline

“I’d love to get it done before the winter and get that place secure. It’s not only an environmental hazard, it’s a public safety hazard and it’s a health hazard,” Crawford said, adding, “The slow turning legal process is still working but it took two and half to three years to get to where we are now. We hope to get some good news from the bank when we speak with them and then work with the attorneys from both sides.”

The developer wants to build three houses on the site, said Crawford, one with access off Salem Street, one off Fairview Avenue and one non-conforming lot off Witham Street that would require a variance. Crawford would prefer there to be just two house lots developed – off Salem and Fairview – and have the non-conforming Witham Street parcel developed as a park for the neighborhood.

Barrett asked Town Administrator Jim Boudreau if the town had sent the building inspector to visit the property since the last meeting was held.

Boudreau said the building inspector had not been on the site since last May but he drives by the property regularly to check for violations, such as used cars being sold from the site. He added it is non-conforming commercial use in a residential zone and he believes the grandfathering for that commercial use has “gone away” because it has not been used for that purpose for so long.

Joe Duhaime, 57 Fairview Ave., said, “I appreciate what the selectmen are trying to do. I know your hands are tied to some extent but this has been going on for five years now. I believe that the gas station has not been operating for five years or more. I think we’ve established there’s a safety hazard there with the asbestos.”

Jason Smith of 34 Fairview Ave. said their neighborhood has “10 kids under 8 and the older they get the closer they come to wandering over there and getting into trouble. We do our best as parents to keep the kids in the yard but that property poses an extreme threat to all of our children.”

“I can’t express how much urgency there is to see those buildings knocked down,” Smith said, adding, “In the last three years I’ve watched the roofs cave in. Every storm that comes through, it gets a little weaker. Now I hear that there are potentially dangerous materials on the surface. … I implore you to keep the gas on these people and get them out of there.”