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November 30, 2010

Bell lawyer: Changes jeopardize Birdseye plan

Mac Bell's development attorney Tuesday notified the city of a possible rupture in lengthy negotiations for a zoning makeover aimed at the redevelopment of the former Birdseye property.

The letter — from attorney Lisa Mead to Joe Ciolino, chairman of the City Council's Planning and Development Committee — upset what had, for a matter of two weeks, seemed the basis of a shaky accord. That was based on Ciolino's version of a rezoning concept that purported to give Bell opportunity to do much, if not most, of what he might have sought with the property, but only with council sign-off on special council permits.

The committee is scheduled to meet with Bell and his team tonight. The meeting is set for the City Hall auditorium, and while the meeting begins at 6 p.m., Ciolino said he didn't expect to get to the zoning impasse until about 7 p.m.

Ciolino said Tuesday he continues to be hopeful, but conceded that Mead's letter gave the committee issues to work through.

"We need to sort this out," he said.

Mead said the proposal submitted to the city underwent substantive alteration once released by the Planning Board to Ciolino's committee.

"We're getting significantly squeezed" by the new dimensional and density requirements in the Ciolino redraft.

"We respectfully request such modifications of the committee proposal as would be necessary to forestall the unfortunate outcome of (Bell, the proponent) withdrawing the Commercial Street Mixed Use Overlay District zoning proposal," she wrote.

Her letter described the Ciolino proposal as "starkly different" from the proposal that Bell submitted and the Planning Board spent seven meetings examining and reporting on.

Ciolino said his modification of the original proposal combines the marine industrial status of the property with the zoning for the rest of the downtown business district.

Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3464, or at

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