By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — The plan to change the zoning in the Pulaski Street industrial park is aimed at easing the plight of nearby residents fed up with the noise and traffic it brings, according to city officials.
But some of those residents are holding their fire on the question of whether designating half the area for general business instead of industrial use deserves their unqualified support.
“I think (Community Development Director Karen Sawyer) has a got a good idea,” said John Surman. “But I want to go slow.”
“Our quality of life has been deteriorating,” said Lola Busta. But she isn’t sure she wants to change the zoning and said she needs more information. “We do intend to have a meeting of the neighborhood.”
Meantime, the plan, which awaits a recommendation from the Planning Board and a vote by the City Council, has drawn fire from some of the businesses currently operating inside the park. Donald Kelley of Wayside Trailer, for example, fears that it could drive some companies out of business by putting more restrictions on what they do.
City Councilor Rico Mello, however, sees it differently. He believes the change will allow the city to have more control over businesses inside the park by requiring a special permit, granted by the council, for some activities. Moreover, he hopes the change will inspire new sorts of companies to locate there.
Mello cites a nearby plumbing firm as a model of what he wants to see in the park; it’s an operation that has caused no problems for residents. He also hopes something productive can be done with land along the Waters River. “It is the only waterfront we have,” he said.
Residents who live near the industrial park have complained about some of the businesses.
“Some of them have been doing business on a Saturday at 2 in the morning,” Mello said. “Some of these people, they’ve got car carriers coming in during the day and early morning. ... This is a way to bring the area up to the times.”
On the other hand, he offers assurances to those concerned that it could negatively impact businesses in the park and the roughly 500 people who work there. “The businesses there will be maintained,” said Mello. “If they’re already there, they’re grandfathered in.”
Both Surman and Busta agree that the industrial park has been a burden on its neighbors, and they contradict park advocates who say that the park predates the arrival of nearby homes. The site was used originally by the A.C. Lawrence leather company.
“There have been houses that predate the park,” said Surman.
When the park was farmland, said Busta, there was a home nearby. “I don’t know how we became a truck route,” she added. “We were just a country road.”
One thing that’s helped, she said, is that the city repaved Pulaski Street, eliminating a lot of the noise made by big rigs bouncing over potholes. But the fix has meant that the traffic is moving faster than ever.
Busta worries that some of the businesses in the park have been poor citizens, operating when they shouldn’t be and even dumping trash into the river.
“They don’t follow the rules the city and council has told them to abide by,” Surman alleged.
He complains that some truckers use the park as a place to rest, “and they run their engines all night. That’s not a truck stop.”
Mayor Ted Bettencourt plans to call a meeting of residents and neighbors to discuss the issue. For his part, Mello hopes to discuss it at a meeting of the council’s human services subcommittee tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.