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August 1, 2013

Council sued over vote on farm stand

PEABODY — You may yet have a place to get fresh cucumbers and tomatoes on Lynn Street.

In July, the City Council turned down a request for a special permit to allow a farm stand at 176 Lynn St. Now, James Pica and Leonard Coffill, trustees of the property, are suing. The pair are asking the Superior Court to order a new hearing, a re-vote and relief from the earlier rejection. They offer a blunt assessment of the original decision not to grant the special permit, describing it as “unsupported by the evidence ... legally untenable ... whimsical, arbitrary and capricious ... unlawful.”

The council voted the farm stand down on a 4 to 6 vote, with Anne Manning-Martin, Dave Gravel, Jim Liacos and Rico Mello in favor; Barry Osborne, Tom Gould, Mike Garabedian, Arthur Athas, Dave Gamache and Bob Driscoll opposed.

In addition to the special permit for a farm stand or retail store, the trustees describe an accompanying beer and wine license and the construction of a greenhouse to the rear of the property. Lawyer Jack Keilty told the council that the greenhouse would grow flowers. The 2.5 acres of property previously housed a Richdale convenience store. The legal brief argues that the council’s ruling contradicts a state law that forbids unreasonable regulation on properties used for commercial agriculture.

The original council hearing drew several neighbors raising objections to the proposal, including the owner of a nearby store who questioned the need for the farm stand. Others worried about traffic.

“There is a parking issue down there,” said resident Russ Donovan, a current candidate for at-large councilor. “Cars, I know, are parking on the sidewalk.”

Some councilors worried that the farm stand would soon become a convenience store selling alcohol.

Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne registered his opposition. “It doesn’t fit into the neighborhood,” he said, adding that this sounded more like a package store. “I have no problem with a farm stand.”

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