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Peabody Council Passes New Zoning Ordinance

Five years of meetings, heated debate and compromise produces new future direction for downtown.

After five years of contentious debate, endless meetings and compromise, the City Council was ready to adopt city planners say will give downtown a brighter future.

But before city councilors adopted the new zoning, several downtown Peabody business owners who did not want to see the city limit housing or change the Industrial Light zoning area to General Business voiced their opposition.

Arthur Gordon, owner of Gordon Realty which owns several apartments and store fronts on Main Street, told the council he opposed the zoning changes because he feels they are designed to prevent additional people from moving downtown.

Gordon argued that if the new zoning does not allow more people to move downtown, it will hurt existing businesses.

"A curb on downtown housing is a a curb on downtown business," said Gordon.

Mark Mahoney and Joseph Mahoney, owner of a light industrial building on 103 Foster St., also opposed seeing their portion of the downtown area changed to General Business.

Mark Mahoney said his father has owned the building since 1968 and it has housed a number of businesses that have provided jobs. He said a company called Adhesive Packaging Specialties occupies the building now and employs 60 people.

He said he is concerned that if their building is not exempt from the new zoning, their current tenant could choose not to renew their lease and go elsewhere.

Before last night, the city had not updated its zoning ordinances for the downtown since 1978 and city planning officials believe the new zoning ordinances will make t by creating more well defined General Business zones.

Several Pulaski Street residents also attended last night's meeting to push for a last-minute zoning ordinance change to create more General Business areas within the Pulaski Street Industrial Park, which is zoned Industrial Light. Residents complained that some businesses have really disputed their residential neighborhood.

Ward 3 City Councilor Rico Mello made a motion calling for the zoning on Pulaski Street to be split with the northern half as General Business and the other half as Industrial Light. But the motion didn't garner much support among the rest of the council.

Ward 6 City Councilor Barry Sinewitz said the city could not afford to take away Industrial Light zoning from some of the commercial land on Pulaski Street that would be impacted because it represents one of the few affordable commercial properties left in Peabody.

Karen Sawyer, director of the Community Services and Planning Department, said the proposed zoning change would create a lot of non-conformance issues right off the bat and could hurt the city's property tax base.

Ward 5 City Councilor David Gamache said while the new zoning ordinances do not represent a perfect document, it is better than what was in place and could be tweaked over time.

Despite some of the objections raised during the meeting, Gamache said, "We have to allow the citizens of Peabody to move forward." He added the Pulaski Street Industrial Park debate could be aired at another time.

"Five years is a long time and we've had this momentum since 2010. Let's not throw it out the window," Gamache said.

City Councilor-at-large David Gravel concurred with Gamache.

"It think this council has done the best that it can with the document that has been delivered," he said. "We will continue to work on the imperfections to make it a more perfect document."

When the new zoning ordinances came to a vote, the final tally was 10-0.

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