The state Appeals Court yesterday ordered the Department of Environmental Protection to deny the city a license to build a Black Cow restaurant on the waterfront, delivering a major blow to the highly touted plan that has been seven years in the making.
In its ruling, a three-judge panel said the DEP’s decision to disqualify a competing proposal by Beverly Port Marina to build a boatyard on the property was “legally erroneous” and “not supported by substantial evidence.”
The ruling vacated a previous ruling by a Superior Court judge in the city’s favor and tossed into limbo a key piece of property that has symbolized the city’s inability to develop its waterfront.
Mayor Bill Scanlon said it is “highly likely” that the city will appeal the decision to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court, before he leaves office on Jan. 5.
“I’m very surprised and very disappointed,” Scanlon said of the ruling. “We think it’s flawed.”
The ruling came just three weeks after the city signed a 40-year lease with restaurant owner Joseph Leone allowing him to build a Black Cow restaurant on the city-owned land near the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
The City Council authorized Scanlon to sign the lease, but not without some councilors expressing legal concerns about doing so before the Appeals Court made its ruling.
City Solicitor Roy Gelineau said yesterday that the lease has been signed. But he said the terms of the lease would no longer apply if the city loses an appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court and is unable to acquire the state license for the project to proceed.
Leone said yesterday he remains committed to building the restaurant if the city can acquire the necessary license. Asked if he would sue the city if the project cannot go forward, Leone said, “No comment.”