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2010-10-02
Lynn & Salem, MA. Two Towns Battle Over Wal-Mart On Border

The battleline has been drawn between two towns north of Boston, Massachusetts, and the line happens to be the same boundary line that separates one town from another. The war is over a proposed new Wal-Mart superstore.

Last May, the City Council in Lynn, Massachusetts, voted to oppose the construction of two big box stores just over the town line in Salem, Massachusetts.

Lynn officials adopted a resolution to formally oppose a plan submitted by the Kennedy Development Group, for a Lowe's home improvement box, and a Wal-Mart superstore along Route 107 in Salem.

Under the Kennedy plan, the Lowe's store would be new construction, but an existing Wal-Mart store would double in size into a superstore. To make the project happen, the developer needs to buy land from Camp Lion, which is owned by a group of members of the Lynn Lion's Club. The developer has also promised to build a water tower for Salem.

Salem's Mayor, Kimberley Driscoll, is all for the project. But opposition began among homeowners in Lynn, many of them abutters to the project. The resolution adopted by the Lynn City Council says that the Wal-Mart/Lowe's project should be halted, in part because of "its detrimental impact on the health, safety and welfare of city residents" in the vicinity."

Lynn residents have complained that the project will generate increased traffic and congestion, and has the potential to decrease the values of nearby homes and commercial properties. The Lynn resolution also lists concern over drainage issues exacerbated by this proposal. "The city of Lynn formally opposes the proposed project," the City Clerk told the Lynn Item newspaper.

The Lynn City Council has directed its Planning Board to take any legal steps needed to oppose the project. One of the Lynn City Councilors, Daniel Cahill, lives near the project. Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is also opposed to the plan. A citizen's group, the East Lynn Community Association, has come out opposed to the plan as well.

"This is going to be a total disaster for Lynn," one city councilor was quoted as saying. "It's just the wrong place at the wrong time." Opponents charge that a reduction in Fays Avenue-area home values caused by the project's construction will result in a shift of the property tax burden to other neighborhoods across the city.

But Salem officials are backing the Kennedy group, which seeks to expand the current Wal-Mart plaza at 450 Highland Avenue in Salem, by purchasing 15 acres from Camp Lion, which is a non profit group comprised of Lion's Club members from Lynn -- but the group is separate from the Lion's Club. Camp Lion stands to make as much as $4 million from the sale of 15 acres to Kennedy Development. A purchase/sale agreement was signed by Camp Lion two years to sell 15 acres to Kennedy.

Kennedy has the support of Salem city officials to combine the current Wal-Mart Plaza with the 15 acres sold by Camp Lion to the developer. The combined land would provide sites for Lowe's and a larger Wal-Mart. Although some Lynn residents have urged the city to sue Salem, Lynn's city attorney has warned city officials that legal action against the Kennedy project would be expensive.

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said two months ago that she'd like to learn that her Salem counterparts "have scrapped the project." Councilor Cahill warned that any property tax increases in Salem would come from a "reduction in values" from Lynn residents living near the project site. "I'm sick and tired of people with a low regard for the city of Lynn," he said.

Cahill asked Lynn's Chief Assessor to analyze the big box project's tax impact on Lynn. In early September, the Assessor wrote: "If future property values are reduced in the area due to declining sales prices as a result of the development, what would happen is that the City's other taxpayers would absorb and make up for any decrease in taxes in order to keep the City's tax collections level."

What you can do: So the battlelines have hardened. Lynn feels it gets all the negatives, and none of the benefits from this expansion. Neighbors have vowed to keep fighting legally. One city councilor in Lynn, Paul Crowley, recently quit the Lion's Club to avoid any conflict of interest between the neighborhood and his involvement with Camp Lion. Crowley said the needs of the neighborhood needed to be addressed.

Readers are urged to email Salem Mayor Kimberley Driscoll at mayor@salem.com with the following message:

"Dear Mayor Driscoll, In your Inauguration speech last January, you told voters in Salem, 'there are no easy choices left.' That is certainly true when it comes to the Wal-Mart expansion project.

You have heard clearly the great concern and opposition to this project from your neighbors in Lynn. This is a regional land use project, and if you put a sign over Wal-Mart's door which read: 'Salem residents only,' the Wal-Mart would close within six months.

So you should try to reach a compromise with Lynn that creates a win/win situation. One way to do that is to tell Wal-Mart to simply reformat their existing store into a supercenter. This is called an 'inbox conversion,' and doesn't require site plan review or any other permit, and does not waste any more acreage.

It's a logical solution, and one which Wal-Mart has done with other expansion projects that have run into strong opposition. The fact is you don't need more Wal-Marts. There's one a few miles away in Danvers, and one on the Lynnway. Help Wal-Mart learn to live within the box."










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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