Lynn zoning revamp to spur growth


October 29, 2015
By Thor Jourgensen/The Daily Item

Revamped city zoning rules that shun business-stifling special permits in favor of detailed site-plan reviews are “a very good trade-off” for growing Lynn’s economy, said a business community representative involved in the zoning rewrite.

Local attorney and Lynn Business Partnership executive board member James Moore said zoning reforms approved 10-0 by the City Council Tuesday night are centered around site-plan review reforms.

Under the zoning changes, a site-plan review committee will review projects proposed across the city except for single-family or two-family residential construction.

EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell review the Market Basket project

Market Basket proposal

EDIC Executive Director James Cowdell gets ready to ask city councilors to approve tax incentives for the Market Basket project planned for GE’s Factory of the Future site during a Tuesday meeting

Projects covered by site-plan review will include new buildings or replacement structures of more than 5,000 square feet; renovations or changes in use requiring the addition of 10 or more parking spaces; and any addition or construction of a new building or replacement structure with a drive-through.

The product of a two-year house-cleaning collaboration between elected officials and the business community, the zoning changes bring a code drafted in the 1920s in line with the 21st century.

“We brought brilliant young minds and seasoned minds together on this,” said Council President Daniel Cahill.

Zoning dictates construction allowed on land parcels across the city, and the approved changes include rezoning more than 120 properties so that their zoning status matches their current use.

One of the largest is King’s Lynne, a residential neighborhood on O’Callaghan Way zoned for light industry.

“This is zoning that doesn’t fit the current use,” said city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan.

The ordinance also makes permanent a Boston Street corridor business district approved by councilors last spring. The change sheds the former industrial zoning designation that Donovan said has historically made it difficult for new development on Boston Street’s business corridor running from Washington Street to Chestnut Street and Broadway.

“A lot of this is necessary cleanup, but the most significant portion is site-plan review,” said Moore.

Councilors and the six-person Council Chamber audience applauded Tuesday following the council vote. Councilor Darren Cyr was not in attendance due to minor surgery.

“For 90 years, the zoning code was tweaked but not updated. We feel this is monumental and historic,” said Lynn Area Chamber of Commerce President Leslie Gould.

Local attorney Moore said past city reliance on special permit approval for business projects turned away developers who wanted to invest in the city only to get their idea rejected following a council special permit review.

Although site-plan review is time-consuming and requires detailed project submissions, Moore said it is accompanied by zoning changes that allow developers to undertake more projects under “by-right” definitions.

“I think it’s a very good trade-off,” Moore said.

Councilor-at-large Brendan Crighton called the revamped ordinance “more readable,” and said it affirms Boston Street’s commercial district as an important city economic zone.

The revised zoning ordinance also incorporates the “mixed use” zoning definition city officials consider vital in spurring economic growth. Defined as “a street-floor level that is devoted to allowed nonresidential uses ... and above street-floor levels devoted to allowed residential uses,” the definition is important for spurring downtown’s resurgence and neighborhoods beyond the city’s center, Donovan said.

“I think this is a good thing for the business community,” he said.

The council Tuesday also approved tax incentives for Market Basket to move forward with its 88,000-square-foot Federal Street store on the site of General Electric’s Factory of the Future.

“These incentives, if granted, clearly will have a material and beneficial effect on Market Basket’s decision on constructing a store in this location,” Market Basket Treasurer Donald Mulligan stated in a letter to councilors read prior to Tuesday’s 10-0 vote in favor of offering the firm incentives.

Economic Development and Industrial Corporation Director James Cowdell included an update on waterfront development plans in his council briefing on Market Basket. Cowdell said a development group led by Lynnway businessman Arthur Pappathanasi is 30 to 45 days away from applying for city permits to build a 326-unit residential project featuring commercial and retail space at ground level on Lynnway land opposite North Shore Community College.

Cowdell said Lynnway gear plant site and Federal Street landowner Charles Patsios is seeking Conservation Commission approval for his planned 1,200-unit residential project on former GE land between the Lynnway and the commuter rail tracks.

He also said state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash has met with Joseph O’Donnell, the owner of undeveloped Lynnway land near the General Edwards Bridge.

“Jay Ash gets Lynn. You’re about to see some really good things happen,” Cowdell told councilors.

Thor Jourgensen can be reached at


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