Waterfront developer wants to re-open Lynnway auto auction

January 12, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

Waterfront landowner Kenneth Carpi has agreed to drop a $2 million lawsuit against the city if city officials grant him Lynn’s only auto auction license, according to Carpi’s lawyer.

Carpi’s attorney, Tom Demakis of Lynn, said the proposal would allow the city to “get out of a lawsuit and gain 200-250 jobs overnight.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said Wednesday she supports the proposal.

She plans to meet with Demakis to work out a few details regarding the use of a city owner lot adjacent to the property. She did not say when the meeting would took place.

“Once we get that straightened out, hopefully the City Council will approve the license and he’ll be good to go,” she said.

Demakis brought the plan to the License Board of the City Council Tuesday looking for support, but it was not a formal proposal. The board set a hearing date for Feb. 14 for the public hearing.

Carpi owns the 10-acre site located at 732R Lynnway that until last June was home to Lynnway Auto Auction. Bob Brest and his partners in that auto auction pulled out of the city, citing the need for a larger space, but held onto the license until it expired on Dec. 31.

Demakis said Carpi would like to reopen the business and filed an application with the City Clerk’s office, but was told he couldn’t do anything unless Brest failed to renew the license, which he did.

City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said he supports the project because it will bring jobs to the city.

Lynnway Auto Auction was known as the largest independent dealer consignment auto auction in New England and employed more than 400 people on its weekly auction days.

City Councilor Rick Ford sits on the Economic Development and Industrial Corp., and found himself in a tough spot when it came to offering support. Ford said he thought Carpi’s plan was great, but he warned the committee that EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell “feels a little differently about a lot of this.”

Cowdell said when the city moved the power lines away from the waterfront in 2010, it took what he called a sliver of an easement of Carpi’s property by eminent domain, which resulted in the lawsuit.

Cowdell admitted that an auto auction doesn’t fit his vision for the waterfront and said he is also not sure it fits in the zoning at the location any longer.

City Council voted to rezone the waterfront area, including the auto auction to allow for mixed use. The Lynnway Auto Auction was grandfathered because it was already in business but, Cowdell said, he is not convinced that will extend to Carpi’s quest to re-open the business.

Inspection Services Director Michael Donovan, however, said it would be grandfathered because it has been closed or abandoned for less than two years, which is the benchmark.

Kennedy said she wasn’t worried that allowing the auto auction would mar the vision for the waterfront.

“Developing the waterfront really will be a process,” she said. “It’s not like every parcel is going to spring to life overnight.”

City Councilor Peter Capano supports the project and said he understands Cowdell’s resistance.

Still, he thinks it’s unrealistic to think the property should remain vacant until the waterfront redevelopment truly gets under way.

“This will provide some jobs, we’ll be getting some use for the land and it’s the kind of business that can pull up in a heartbeat if something better comes along,” Capano said.

City Councilor Daniel Cahill was outspoken when Brest and company moved out of the city. He said Wednesday Carpi’s plan is the perfect vehicle for the property.

“I think anytime in this economy that someone wants to come in and provide 200 to 250 jobs we should welcome them with open arms,” he said.



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