Published in the May 4, 2016 edition


LYNNFIELD — The Planning Board received a preliminary report on plans to redevelop the non-existent Perley Burrill gas station at 906 Salem St. April 27.

Attorney Jay Kimball, developer Michael Merullo, Hayes Engineering President Peter Ogren and Selectmen Chairman Phil Crawford gave the Planning Board a preview of Merullo’s plans to redevelop the property.

Planning and Land Use Assistant Kathy Randele informed the Villager last week that Merullo has not yet filed formal plans with the town.

Merullo is interested in acquiring and redeveloping the property as either a four-lot subdivision or a three-lot subdivision. If the three-lot subdivision plan moves forward, either a neighborhood park or a conservation area would be established in what would have been the fourth lot off Witham Street. The size of the lots, which vary from 15,000 square feet to 27,900 square feet, would limit the building footprints to ones that would match existing homes in area.

In a phone interview with the Villager on Friday, Kimball said if the four-lot option is pursued, Merullo will be requesting approval of a waiver from the frontage requirement for the fourth lot on Witham Street. If this waiver is received, Merullo would need to request a frontage variance from the Board of Appeals.

Kimball told the 18 neighborhood residents in attendance that the plan is designed to rectify the Perley Burrill situation which has frustrated both the town and the neighborhood for several years.

“The neighborhood has been extremely tolerant of the situation that has gone on down there,” said Kimball.

Ogren agreed.

“It’s a terrible eyesore and one of the reasons it’s lasted for a long time is because it’s a difficult piece of land to develop due all of the requirements,” said Ogren. “With some relief from the Planning Board, it could be developed and that is why the neighborhood encouraged us to move forward at our neighborhood meeting.”

Additionally, Merullo, a Lynnfield resident, has a vested interest in redeveloping the property because he holds the third mortgage on the property and getting the site back onto the tax rolls is beneficial for the town’s taxpayers. Crawford said the town is owed $225,000 in back taxes from the current owner, Joseph Pedoto, which must be paid before the property is redeveloped.

Kimball explained that Merullo will need to clean up the property before it can be redeveloped and subdivided. The clean-up plan would be overseen by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and it would be done in different stages.

“To do this, these matters need to be addressed and it comes down to money issues,” said Kimball. “Mike is looking to maximize the use of the premises to make it financially viable for him. If he can’t do that, then he will have to make a decision about what he does with the property. The town has made it perfectly clear they do not want to buy this property and clean it up. If we can find an individual willing to do this and if it’s a proposal everyone can live with, then it’s a step in the right direction.”

Ogren told the board the proposal for a three-lot subdivision would have Merullo seek waivers from the roadway width and turnaround requirement.

“If you did that, you would create the requisite frontage that is required for three lots,” said Ogren. “The last lot doesn’t have the requisite frontage on Witham Street but that is the parcel we have talked to the neighborhood about utilizing as a park.”

Crawford explained the town would need to purchase the fourth lot in order for a park to be established.

“We would have to go to October Town Meeting with that proposal if that goes forward,” said Crawford. “It was pretty much unanimous at the neighborhood meeting the neighborhood would like a park there.”

Crawford said if voters at Town Meeting reject the park proposal the lot could be purchased by the Conservation Commission but the land would remain as undeveloped open space and a park would not be constructed.

Board’s reaction

In response to a question from Planning Board Co-Chairman John Faria, Merullo said an environmental engineer tested the property for contamination after five underground storage tanks were removed in January 2015. This test revealed only one area of the tanks had soil contamination. He said the consultant wants to conduct more testing to make sure the property can be redeveloped.

“I can’t do that until the buildings are gone,” Merullo added.

Faria expressed concerns about the proposal moving forward without further information about potential contamination.

“You cannot build a residence on a contaminated lot,” Faria said.

Merullo agreed.

“I understand that totally,” said Merullo. “I have been in the disposal business for about 35 years now and I know that quite a bit of remediation needs to happen. That is why I have to keep the costs down as much as possible to make the road and everything else work.”

Stacy Dillon, 892 Salem St., inquired what happens if the property cannot be developed because the land is contaminated.

Merullo said “major testing” needs still needs to be undertaken but he is optimistic that the property can be redeveloped.

“I am pretty confident it’s buildable,” said Merullo. “I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t have the feeling I have.”

Faria also inquired whether the roadway’s turnaround would be large enough for public safety officials to access in the event of an emergency. Ogren said he has not yet discussed the proposal with Fire Chief Mark Tetreault.

“Our next step will be to meet with public safety officials to make sure it’s OK with them,” said Ogren.

Witham Street resident Julie Davey said she opposes the park plan because it would make the area’s drug problem worse.

“For the first two-and-a-half years of us living on Witham Street, we alone in our law enforcement capacity had to eradicate the drug dealers doing hand-to-hand drug transactions in front of our house and in front of that lot,” said Davey. “I have children and a lot of people in the neighborhood have children, and a park seems ideal, but the neighborhood still hasn’t addressed those issues. Lynnfield Police have been great and they have come every time I have called them but we still are picking up needles and going up to cars and telling them to get out of the neighborhood.”

While the Planning Board did not take a formal position on the proposal, all five members were open to approving the frontage waiver.

“I think it’s in conformity of what the neighbors want,” said Faria. “Doing the best thing for the neighborhood is what this is all about.”