Land Court to hear Bali Hai apartment case

Jan 9, 2020 by


Published January 8, 2020

LYNNFIELD — The Bali Hai apartment building case is heading to trial later this month.

The Bali Hai Restaurant closed its doors on New Year’s Eve 2018 after previously serving Chinese and Polynesian cuisine and drinks since the 1950s. The Yee family sold the former North Shore landmark to local developers Matt and David Palumbo for $600,000 in the fall of 2018. The Palumbo brothers proposed constructing a 32-unit apartment building on the property in the summer of 2018. The Palumbo brothers agreed to reduce the apartment building’s size to 23 units due to abutter opposition.

After two public hearings were held about the proposed apartment building, the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected the project in November 2018. While ZBA members Anthony Moccia and Andy Youngren voted in favor of the developers’ request for a Special Permit, ZBA Chairman Brian Shaffer voted no. State law requires three-member ZBAs such as Lynnfield’s to unanimously approve requests for zoning relief such as Special Permits or variances.

In the wake of the ZBA’s decision, the Palumbo brothers filed an appeal with the Land Court seeking to overturn the decision. Town Counsel Tom Mullen informed the Villager that the trial will begin in the Land Court in Boston on Tuesday, January 28. He said the case’s judge is Robert B. Foster and the Palumbo brothers’ attorney is David J. Gallagher of Regnante Sterio, LLP.

“The trial could last up to three days,” said Mullen. “The question before the court is whether the proposed new use is more detrimental to the neighborhood than the existing restaurant use.”

Attorney Ted Regnante informed the Villager that the Palumbo brothers’ legal team intends to show that “the proposed use of a 23-unit apartment building is substantially less detrimental to the neighborhood than a Chinese restaurant.”

Mullen plans on calling two witnesses to testify during the trial, including former Town Moderator Arthur Bourque. The Locksley Road resident testified against the project in front of the ZBA and the Planning Board. During a ZBA meeting in September 2018, Bourque said the Board of Selectmen “worked diligently to avoid spot zoning in any form including 40B” over the course of his 12-year tenure.

“Even though this is not 40B, that is what is going on here,” Bourque told the ZBA. “We have a grandfathered use, which is effectively trying to get a board to say yes to putting this 23-unit apartment building in a residential neighborhood. It’s not a residential use. It’s a commercial use. These are not good neighbors. These are transient people who stay for a year or so and then leave.”

Mullen also plans on calling Superintendent Jane Tremblay as an expert witness. He said Tremblay will be discussing the proposed apartment building’s impact on the school system.

After the trial concludes, Mullen said a transcript of the Land Court’s proceedings will be compiled, which he said will take between 30 and 60 days to complete. He said both himself and attorney Gallagher will be filing briefs with the court and oral arguments will take place before Judge Foster.

“The court will then take the matter under advisement,” said Mullen.

Regnante told the Board of Selectmen in June 2019 it could take two to three years for the Land Court to make a decision. The Palumbo brothers appeared before the selectmen last June to request that the board transfer an all-alcohol license from the Bali Hai to Wakefield-based MDK Ventures so they could open a new restaurant called American 160 Bar and Grill at the 160 Moulton Dr. property. The selectmen approved the liquor license transfer.

American 160 Bar and Grill has yet to open in the old Bali Hai.

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