Residents hear Bali Hai apartment plan

Jul 3, 2018 by

Published in the July 4, 2018 edition


LYNNFIELD — A new apartment building is being eyed for the current location of the Bali Hai Restaurant.

Developers Matthew and David Palumbo have proposed constructing a 32-unit apartment building, currently called 160 Moulton Dr., LLC. The two developers gave an overview of the project during a neighborhood input meeting at the Al Merritt Center on June 26.

“Over the past several weeks, we have had an opportunity to meet with neighbors of the Bali Hai,” said Matthew Palumbo. “My brother and I are from Lynnfield. We went to Huckleberry Hill School and the middle school, and played baseball behind the Bali Hai. We are in the residential real estate business, and we manage and develop our own real estate projects specifically in Malden and local towns around here.”

Palumbo said the Bali Hai has “been a staple in Lynnfield for a very long time.”

“We have become close with the Yee family,” said Palumbo. “They are a wonderful family.”

Palumbo recalled a local developer wanted to build a 68-unit apartment building at the site two years ago. He said the project was not well received by the neighborhood and it never came to fruition.

“We are now at this point,” said Palumbo. “We went to the drawing board and brought in a great architect, engineer and attorneys. We tried to come up with a project that we think best addresses the concerns brought up two years ago. We significantly scaled back the project. We ultimately came up with a 32-unit luxury apartment building.”

A RENDERING of the proposed 32-unit apartment building that would be located at 160 Moulton Dr. (Courtesy Photo)

Palumbo said 24 of the 32 units will be two-bedroom apartments and eight will be one-bedroom apartments.

“They are going to be high-end apartments and are going to be at the highest price point in Lynnfield and surrounding towns,” said Palumbo. “It’s going to be vastly different than what you see at Lynnfield Commons. It will be similar to the Everly Apartments in Wakefield and the MarketStreet Apartments.”

Palumbo said the apartment building’s design “better fits the character of the neighborhood.”

“When we came up with the design itself, we wanted to respect all of the ordinances for the zoning,” said Palumbo. “We tried to have the smallest footprint possible on the existing lot.”

Sousa Design Architects founder Stephen Sousa said the apartment building would have a lot of “green space” and the existing trees that serve as a buffer between the Bali Hai and Newhall Park will remain. He said the apartment building would have 68 parking spaces. He explained that the building will comply with “light pollution ordinances.”

“We don’t want a bright apartment building,” said Sousa.

Sousa said the apartment building would be 14,000 square feet and would be three stories. He said the building will have a “classical design.”

“We are not looking to land a space ship in your neighborhood,” said Sousa.

Hayes Engineering President Peter Ogren, who served as the Bali Hai’s engineer when the Chinese restaurant burned down in 1972, said the apartment building’s septic system “would be designed for today’s standards.”

Ogren said a traffic study is in the process of being undertaken. He claimed the number of evening trips to the apartment building would be “about one-third” less than trips to restaurants at night.

Atty. Ted Regnante said Mark Fougere of Fougere Planning and Development is currently collecting data on the number of families who would live at the apartment building.

Palumbo noted the apartment building is “not an affordable housing project.”

“We are not going to be dealing with the ratios that come with Lynnfield Commons,” said Palumbo. “Families tend to go towards three-bedroom units. Here, we are offering 24 two-bedroom units and eight one-bedroom units.”

As part of the permitting process, Regnante said the development team will not need Town Meeting to approve the project.

“Because this is a nonconforming use protected under Massachusetts General Laws 40A, Section 6 and Section 5 of the local Zoning Bylaw, when you have a nonconforming use, you are allowed to change that use to another nonconforming use as long as the new nonconforming use is not substantially more detrimental to the neighborhood,” said Regnante.

Regnante said the Zoning Board of Appeals will need to sign off on the proposed project.

“What would happen next is we would file with the Zoning Board of Appeals two things,” said Regnante. “First of all would be to change the existing nonconforming use from restaurant to another nonconforming use, an apartment building, because there is no zoning in Lynnfield for an apartment building. And number two is site plan approval. There will be a public hearing scheduled by the Board of Appeals on those two issues.”

Residents criticize project

Similar to recent development projects in town, most of the residents at the meeting said they opposed the apartment building project.

A man in the audience said the apartment building would generate more traffic than a restaurant.

“That lot hasn’t had more than 25 cars in it on New Year’s Eve,” the man said. “You are going fill up the parking lot with cars. It’s not filled today. We enjoy the fact that there are 10 to 12 cars there. We won’t enjoy it when there are 68 cars there.”

In response to a question from Vokes Terrace resident Sharon Donovan, Palumbo said the rent for one-bedroom apartments would be between $2,200 and $2,300. He said the rent for two-bedroom apartments would be between $3,100 and $3,300.

“We think it’s going to be easy to rent these apartments,” said Palumbo.

Andrea Deady, 28 Vokes Ter., said she understands “the Bali Hai has got to go,” but said traffic is a “huge” concern. She noted a number of people litter on Moulton Drive, and worried the apartment building would make the problem worse.

Palumbo said maintenance crews will make sure the apartment building area is properly maintained. “We take pride in the things that we build and the things that we own,” he said.

Mohammad Saeed, 8 Oak St., said he and his family supports the apartment building project.

“We have been here 40 years,” said Saeed. “The parking problem we are talking about is not because of the Bali Hai. It’s because baseball games are going on (at Newhall Park) all the time. Bali Hai never fills up and I am sure there are plenty of parking spaces you created. I want to see the Bali Hai gone.”

David Trefry, 5 Locksley Rd, inquired what would happen if the ZBA rejects the project.

Palumbo said he will purchase the property in August, and will “likely put a restaurant there or lease it out to restaurant managers.”

“I would rather have a restaurant there,” said Trefry in response. “If you have more than two cars per family, I can just see cars parking on Locksley Road.”

School Committee Chairman Jamie Hayman noted the Board of Selectmen formed the School Enrollment and Capacity Exploration Committee recently in order to gather data on school enrollment and possibly develop an action plan.

“There is a feeling that any residential development in town is going to impact the schools,” said Hayman. “As the School Committee chairman, I would simply request that before you go to the ZBA that we get a chance to see that report ahead of time so we can comment on it.”

In response to a question from a woman, Palumbo said the Bali Hai’s owners “requested two months to close down the business.” He would like to demolish the building “shortly thereafter,” and hopes construction would begin in 2019 if the ZBA approves the project.

Town Moderator Arthur Bourque said he believes Town Meeting should approve the apartment building project instead of the ZBA.

“I think it needs to be rezoned,” said Bourque.

Regnante disagreed with Bourque’s opinion.

“The Zoning Board of Appeals makes a determination whether or not it’s more detrimental to the neighborhood,” said Regnante. “If they think it is, they turn it down. If they think it’s less detrimental, they approve it.” 

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