SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 20, 2014

Plans in limbo for old tannery site

By John Castelluccio
Staff Writer

---- — PEABODY — The old L. Fine & Co. factory still towers over Corwin Pond off Lynnfield Street and may continue to do so for some time.

Plans to convert the abandoned factory into an indoor recreational facility are now in limbo, as officials try to figure out who actually owns the property. Three parties all appear to have an ownership stake.

City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski said a Wakefield firm, Commonwealth Tank, was a creditor of the former owner and recently bought the property at auction. A second creditor, an environmental firm, recently filed suit. And Sal Palumbo, owner of Stonewood Tavern next door, has purchased the right to buy the property from Commonwealth Tank.

Last summer, the City Council approved a special permit to allow local developer Robert DeNisco to demolish part of the old factory and convert the site into a new Yellowjackets gymnastics studio. The project was well-received by city councilors, who said it would revive the rundown property and remove a public-safety concern. The city condemned the site last fall after someone entered the main building and injured himself falling through the floor.

DeNisco, who had permission from then-property owner Onnig Beurekjian to redevelop the site, was poised to receive an order of conditions from the Conservation Commission last fall when it became apparent the site was more heavily contaminated than first thought.

State environmental officials quickly assumed oversight. The land was found to contain arsenic, chromium, oil and dioxins, all common vestiges of former tanneries, which are costly to clean up.

DeNisco was never issued an order of conditions. He wants to reopen the public hearing with the ConCom to address the contamination issues, but according to city Conservation Agent Lucia DelNegro, the matter is tabled as the board waits for property ownership to be clarified.

According to deed records, the property was seized by the sheriff’s department after court proceedings and a filing against Beurekjian by Commonwealth Tank in 2011. The firm purchased the property at auction for $600,000 in September 2013.

Under the law, however, Beurekjian was allowed a year to buy back the property for the same amount. According to Smerczynski, Beurekjian sold that right to Palumbo. Meanwhile, a second creditor filed suit with an attachment on the property. That case is still pending.

Smerczynski said he convened a meeting at the mayor’s request with all the concerned parties to at least secure the property from trespassers. Commonwealth Tank has since installed lights and motion sensors and boarded up the building.

The change in ownership throws into question the validity of DeNisco’s special permit from the city. Smerczynski said all three parties will likely have to work out a deal for anything to happen.

Attorney John Keilty, who is representing DeNisco, did not return a phone call by press time.

An assistant for Kevin Hoag, the president at Commonwealth Tank, said nothing has been decided with the property yet. She declined to answer any further questions about it.

You can reach John Castelluccio at 978-338-2527, jcastelluccio@salemnews.com or via Twitter at @SNjcastelluccio.