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Lynn City Council votes to take two properties

This article was published 1 year(s) and 5 month(s) ago.

Senior citizens attended a City Council meeting on Tuesday to support the eminent-domain taking of a Friend Street building for a new Senior Center in Lynn. Photo by Alena Kuzub (Alena Kuzub)

LYNN — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to authorize the taking of two private properties by eminent domain for municipal purposes.

City officials have been discussing the potential of exercising eminent domain to acquire the former Century Bank building at 2 State St. and the Element Care property at 11-17 and 37-41 Friend St. for a few months. 

Eminent domain is the government power to take private property for public use, which is set forth both in Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 79, and the U.S. Constitution. 

“I think all of us, including myself, take the power of eminent domain very seriously. This is a big step,” said Mayor Jared C. Nicholson at the meeting prior to the council vote.

Councilors voted in favor of the eminent domain takings with the exception of Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, who was absent.

The properties were for sale, said Nicholson, and the city was limited in how it could participate in the purchase, per state public-procurement laws, leaving eminent domain as the best option to acquire additional space for city use. The city had an absolute need for space for a Senior Center, the School Department and for health and safety purposes, Nicholson said.

He emphasized that the city had no intent of displacing anyone from the properties as a result of the taking and had followed the process closely.

An investor group under contract to purchase 2 State St. objected to the eminent-domain taking (Item, March 30) in a letter sent to all councilors. In the letter, Lynn State Street 2 LLC Manager Peter E. Cook noted that PNC Bank has been under letter of intent since last December to lease space in 2 State St.

On Tuesday morning, John Hennessey, who represents Cook, wrote an email to the Item, stating some points he believes have been overlooked by the mayor and City Council in the State Street taking. 

“The buyer of the property has one of the largest banks in the United States committed to coming to Lynn, to lend to the Lynn community,” said Hennessey. “Doesn’t it seem to make more sense to have a thriving business that is investing in your community in a facility that was designed for the use, rather than a proposed city use that would not have enough space from the beginning of their tenancy? Acquiring a larger building would provide much more flexibility to the city.”

The city would become the owner of the properties some time next week, said James Lamanna, assistant city solicitor. The State Street property was appraised at $1.5 million, while the market value of the Friend Street property was appraised at $4.8 million.

By law, the sellers have the right to challenge the city and seek higher compensation through court.

“It may prove risky to assume that a $1.5 million taking amount will be unchallenged in court,” Cook warned in the letter to councilors.

The city is planning to use the 4.5-story building on Friend Street for a long-awaited Senior Center, as well as for other purposes. The building has a commercial kitchen, handicap-accessible bathrooms and does not require much renovation, Lamanna said. 

The city has two years’ worth of funds saved while the Senior Center was not operational, and a lot of equipment and furniture from its previous location, which has been stored at the Lynn Armory. Lamanna estimated that the new Senior Center could start operating as soon as this month.

A few dozen senior citizens came to show support for the Friend Street taking. They wore blue T-shirts with the Massachusetts Senior Action Council logo and held signs reading, “Lynn seniors deserve more than crumbs.”

The signs were asking for more parking for seniors on Friend Street and use of the second floor. There have been discussions that the School Department will share the building with the Senior Center, Lamanna said.

“The decisions will need to be made by the mayor and the council with respect to how those two uses will gel with the parking needs and needs of the seniors,” said Lamanna.

“We want to make sure that the members of the Senior Action, and frankly, all of our seniors have an adequate recreational space,” said Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre.

Ward 2 Councilor Rick Starbard also spoke in support of using the building’s second floor for a senior center. 

He appealed to Nicholson to recognize the space and parking dilemma and include councilors and seniors in further discussions.

Councilor-at-Large Brian Field and Council President Jay Walsh acknowledged Chakoutis and her dedication and hard work for city elders and the Senior Center.

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