DANVERS — The fate of the former site of an ink and paint plant that blew up in a fireball nearly seven years ago and devastated a Danversport neighborhood has been decided, as the Planning Board has granted permission for a boatyard there, Senior Planner Kate Day said.
“The town treated me very fairly and very well,” said Jeffrey Bunk of Danvers, the owner of Bunky’s Marina on Liberty Street, about his dealings with the Zoning Board of Appeals, Conservation Commission and Planning Board.
Tuesday night, the Planning Board unanimously granted special permit and site plan approval to Bunky Realty LLC for boat storage and brokerage at the 0.8-acre site at 128R Water St.
The parcel is bounded by homes on Bates Street to the north, a seafood restaurant to the west, and Liberty Marina to the south and east. The board also granted permission for Bunk to build a 4,500 square-foot office with bathrooms and a garage. The building will be in keeping with other wooden clapboard buildings in the area, Bunk said.
Bunk bought the property for $202,000 in January from the former owners of the destroyed CAI/Arnel plant, town records show.
He did so to provide himself with a second boatyard with the coming of the state reconstruction of culverts on Liberty Street. The work threatens to cut off his boat-storage business from the boat ramp access to Popes Landing just across Porter River.
Up until January, a rusting tank and burnt trees were constant reminders of the Nov. 22, 2006, early-morning chemical plant accident, which resulted in a blast that shook the region. The fiery explosion destroyed the plant, damaged or destroyed dozens of homes, and displaced residents. While there were some injuries, no one was killed.
“The residents really went through hell over there, and I don’t think any residential neighbor opposed it,” he said. In dealings with the EPA to buy the site, Bunk said he told officials the abandoned site was an “open wound,” the sight of which was a constant reminder to residents of what they went through.
Clearing the site “just gave it a better overall appearance,” Bunk said. The EPA had performed a cleanup of the site shortly after the blast.
The Planning Board imposed some minor conditions on Bunk, Day said, including a requirement to pressure-test the existing sewer pipe for damage using closed-circuit television. If the sewer pipe is damaged, Bunk will have to replace it. The board also prohibited boat pressure-washing unless a closed-loop system is installed.
Bunky’s was also prohibited from blocking the driveway leading to the new boatyard and Liberty Marina during construction and from parking or blocking the driveway in the future.
Concerns about polluted storm water running from the new boatyard onto Liberty Marina’s property were also resolved, Day said. Liberty Marina had appealed the ZBA’s approval of the boatyard. The two marinas worked to engineer the boatyard in such a way that the runoff would be captured and treated on site, Day said.
“It will all go into the ground,” Bunk said.
The $7.1 million state reconstruction of the causeway and culverts on Liberty Street is expected to start this fall. The work could take place over three years and close the Liberty Street causeway periodically.
“I’m just trying to prepare for the worst,” Bunk said.
Former Zoning Board of Appeals member Andrea Daley raised concerns Tuesday, saying the zoning bylaw seems to allow landlocked boatyards on industrial and village waterfront zones in town.
“I thought a boatyard should, in Danvers, be tied to some sort of water usage of some kind,” Daley said. It’s something the Planning Board might like to revisit, she said.
She was also concerned about the design of the boatyard building, which she said would be one of the largest of the new buildings in the area. The design includes large garage doors and no windows to provide visual relief.
Daley said the zoning bylaw says buildings should be more in keeping with the architectural style of the neighborhood. Daley said Bunk offered at the meeting to improve the style of the building.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.