BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — Seven years after a restaurant was first proposed for the waterfront, some city councilors are now wondering if the plan is moving too fast.
Councilors raised concerns last night about Mayor Bill Scanlon’s request for them to approve a 40-year lease between the city and restaurant owner Joseph Leone.
The lease would allow Leone to build a Black Cow restaurant on city-owned land near the Beverly-Salem bridge. But some councilors are wondering if they should approve the lease now because the permitting for the process is still in litigation.
“I’m really concerned about approving a lease before we know the final outcome,” Councilor Don Martin said. “It seems to me we can wait three or four months and then move forward. Maybe the next mayor will have to deal with it.”
Councilor Maureen Troubetaris disagreed, saying the current administration is better prepared to handle the lease negotiations because the proposal has been in the works for so long. Scanlon is not running for re-election and will leave office in January.
“The present administration has been working on this for years and years,” Troubetaris said. “It has a long, long history and to shut it off for a couple of months I think is insulting.”
If the City Council approves the lease and the litigation is settled, Troubetaris said, “We can start tomorrow tearing down the old McDonald’s building and get going with what the entire city says, ‘What’s taking you so long?’”
The proposed lease calls for Leone, who owns Black Cow restaurants in Hamilton and Newburyport, to pay the city $30,000 per year to lease the land where he would build the restaurant. It would be the city’s first waterfront restaurant since the McDonald’s on the same site closed 20 years ago.
The plan has been hung up for years in legal appeals made by Frank and Suzanne Kinzie, who own the Beverly Port Marina next door. The Kinzies say they are not opposed to a waterfront restaurant but disagree with the current deal between the city and Leone.
The Kinzies’ latest appeal is now before the state Appeals Court. City Solicitor Roy Gelineau said last night he doesn’t expect the court to make its ruling until early next year.
Gelineau said he is confident the court will rule in the city’s favor. In response to questions from councilors, he said he doesn’t think that signing a lease agreement before the court renders its decision will expose the city to further litigation than it might face otherwise.
“The abutters have made it perfectly clear that they don’t want this project and they’re going to do whatever they can to stop it,” Gelineau said. “That’s a fact, so let’s live with that fact.”
Frank Kinzie and Leone both attended last night’s meeting, which was held by the City Council’s legal affairs committee. It was not a public hearing so members of the public were not allowed to speak.
In a letter to city councilors submitted yesterday, an attorney representing Beverly Port Marina urged them to reject or postpone consideration of the lease until a new mayor and City Council take office.
The letter said the lease “may be unlawful” and is a “terrible” financial deal for the city.
“(Beverly Port Marina) believes that this is an attempt by the outgoing mayor to impose a bad deal on the city for the benefit of a local developer,” attorney Adam Brodsky wrote.
Scanlon, who did not attend last night’s meeting, has said the city will bring in “a six-figure amount of money every year” from the Black Cow including lease payments, property taxes, boat slip rentals, and parking meter revenue.
The legal affairs committee did not vote on the matter last night.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lease proposal between city and Black Cow restaurant Black Cow pays city $30,000 per year to lease land, adjusted for inflation First floor will include a "water-dependent use" Parking lot will have 63 metered spaces not exclusive to restaurant customers Black Cow entitled to rent six boat slips at city marina City will install parking meters at three lots near restaurant Black Cow will maintain city's Ferryway Landing