Lynnfield backs rail trail; cinema nixed again

Apr 12, 2019 by

Published in the April 12, 2019 edition.

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — Tuesday will go down as one of the most memorable days in Lynnfield politics in quite some time.

Voters narrowly approved the non-binding rail trail ballot question by 181 votes. National Development also announced it has scrapped plans to move forward with a proposal to build a movie theater at MarketStreet Lynnfield, which was scheduled to be voted on at the April 29 Town Meeting.

Additionally, Housing Authority Chairman Joseph Markey was elected town moderator and Ryan Road resident Tom Wallace was elected to the Planning Board.

According to the official election results released by Town Clerk Trudy Reid, 3,553 out of 9,110 registered voters cast ballots in Tuesday’s municipal election, totaling 39 percent.

Rail trail passes 

Voters approved moving forward with the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail, 1,859 votes to 1,679 votes.

The close non-binding vote followed a similar result in the April 2017 Town Meeting, when voters approved a citizens’ petition authorizing the Board of Selectmen to enter into a 99-year lease with the MBTA by a 342-341 vote.

The proposed Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail would begin at the Main Street and Bennett Street intersection in Wakefield near the Galvin Middle School, extend north through Lynnfield and would go to the Peabody line. A portion of the rail trail would go through Reedy Meadow via an elevated boardwalk. WorldTech Engineering Vice President Bill Mertz recently said 1.8 miles of the trail would be in Wakefield and 2.5 miles would be in Lynnfield. Mertz recently projected the final design and permitting process for the $10 million rail trail would be completed by the fall of 2021. He anticipates construction would begin in the spring of 2022.

Since the Board of Selectmen voted to place the non-binding referendum on the ballot, supporters and opponents of the rail trail repeatedly sparred over the project in Letters to the Editor, on social media, public meetings and around town.

Friends of the Lynnfield Rail Trail President Vince Inglese said in a statement he was pleased voters backed the rail trail once again.

“This was a significant step to proceed to final design and we look forward to this next phase as well as being one step closer to getting this rail trail built,” Inglese stated. “We are confident that this rail trail will be viewed as a treasured asset for both the Lynnfield and Wakefield communities. One that is accessible to all ages and abilities, will foster a more connected community both physically and socially, and make us a safer and healthier community. Lastly, we see the election as a clear mandate expressed by the citizens of Lynnfield and we look forward to the selectmen supporting this project through its next phase without needless delay.”

The Citizens of Lynnfield Against the Rail Trail had a different take on Tuesday’s vote.

“In case you were wondering, the town remains divided,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

Cinema withdrawn

In addition to the rail trail vote, Board of Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton announced National Development will not be moving forward with the proposed MarketStreet Lynnfield cinema. Article 14 on the April 29 Town Meeting would have asked voters to amend the Zoning Bylaw, which would have allowed National Development to construct an eight-screen, 800-seat movie theater at MarketStreet. A cinema is currently prohibited at the outdoor mall.

National Development Managing Partner Ted Tye made the announcement in a letter sent to the selectmen.

“Thank you, particularly to Mr. Dalton and Mr. Crawford, for your continuing efforts to work with MarketStreet and for the best interests of the community,” Tye stated. “You have reflected the true spirit of partnership that has marked MarketStreet’s 12 year relationship with the town of Lynnfield. We have appreciated the opportunity to explore our proposal and work with you, the MarketStreet Advisory Committee, the town of Lynnfield and the greater Lynnfield community.

“The decision not to proceed to spring Town Meeting is a difficult one,” Tye continued. “In the end, we believe that it is an unfortunate outcome for both Lynnfield and MarketStreet. Our application was delayed for a year to allow the MarketStreet Advisory Committee to study the project. Waiting another year, as suggested by some, would yield no new information.

“One of the things that we said when we came before the board several months ago was that we hoped the discourse could occur in a constructive manner,” stated Tye. “Unfortunately, the idea of civil discourse was not embraced by all. Misrepresentations, inaccuracies and name calling by several vocal opponents will, without doubt, contribute to a poor long-term result for the town.

“MarketStreet will continue to be the premier retail destination on the North Shore,” stated Tye. “We will also continue to contribute over $4 million to Lynnfield’s tax base and, in time, build the remaining approximately 60,000 square feet of already permitted space within MarketStreet. What we will not be able to do without the development of the theater is provide a smart signal system, ramp improvements, additional parking or make a major contribution to Lynnfield’s park improvements. Thank you to those in Lynnfield who gave us their time and attention over the last few months. We look forward to continuing our partnership with the town for many more years.”

Tye’s decision to withdraw the cinema article is the second time he has done so in two years. He withdrew a similar warrant article, which did not include the traffic improvements, before the April 2017 Town Meeting.

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