OSCO Drug Store Issue

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 New News 11/30/2002. Apparently the site has been sold by Osram/Sylvania to a local group of developers. The City Councillor, Regina Flynn, has indicted that this group will be meeting with the adjacent neighborhoods to discuss the future plans for the site.

Osco Drug at the Osram Sylvania Site

The corner of Bridge and Boston Streets is the source of continuing controversy due to the OSCO Drug issue. The developers (Kennedy Group) is promoting the building of a drug store on the corner, and an office building to the east. This site is zoned Business Park Development. This zoning does not permit retail to be an authorized use.

Kennedy went to the ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) in December of 1998 and asked for a series of variances, among which was for a use variance. It was the opinion of the residents that the use variance could not be granted as it is not legal to do so in Massachusetts. The residents also were opposed to this type of use for many other reasons - it was too close to the historic neighborhood, did not respect the set backs of urban building, traffic increase and so on. The ZBA voted to allow the variance.

Some abutters have sued the ZBA, and they are supported by the Federal Street Neighborhood and others. The suit is in court, and is expected to take a few years to be adjudicated.

The developer then went to the Planning Board and after a long hearing process, the Board approved the plan with conditions. It should be noted that the Planning Board, before hearing the proposal, asked for a ruling from the city counsel as to whether they could decline to hear the plan. The Planning Board expressed reservations about hearing the plan until the legal aspects were clarified with the ZBA. The city counsel indicated that it was appropriate for the Board to hear the plan. The neighbors asked for many changes in the plan, including changes in siting, materials, and design. Despite the time that the Planning Board spent on the project, it is discouraging that they were not willing to recommend significant changes in the project, as has been required by many other communities which are dealing with the location of generic drug stores in historic areas.


A position paper is printed below:

by Meg Twohey and Betsy Burns

In December, 1998, residents who abut the Osram Sylvania site filed suit to overturn the decision of the Salem Zoning Board of Appeals issued in December which allows retail use in the form of an Osco Drug store on the Osram Sylvania site at the corner of Boston and Bridge Streets, one of Salem's major entrance corridors. The Osram Sylvania site is zoned for Business Park Development, where retail use is not allowed. It also directly abuts a portion of the McIntire Historic District.

In the next several years, it is likely that major redevelopment will take place along the Bridge Street corridor. The quality of use and design on this entrance corridor adjacent to the McIntire Historic District is of critical concern. The Federal Street Neighborhood Association has been active in supporting the abutters in their suit, and held a successful fund raiser in January to begin to raise funds needed for the legal fees for the suit. They expect that the total cost to reverse this decision could be as much as the cost for 376 Essex Street - close to $50,000.

HSI has consistently opposed granting a zoning variance at this site to allow retail use. John Wathne wrote to the Zoning Board of Appeals on behalf of HSI: "We are very concerned that this undermines the intent of the original zoning ordinances and City-wide master plan that developed the system and delineation of zoning that currently exists. We are also concerned that such "spot rezoning" sets a dangerous precedent for future development and zoning issues in the City and undermines the effectiveness of the Planning Board. This is especially critical where development abuts a nationally and locally registered historic district."

In February, the Salem Planning Board began hearings to review the Site Plan for the proposed Osco Drug Store and office building proposed by Kennedy Development for the site. (Kennedy Development previously developed PEP Boys on Highland Avenue.) . The site is viewed members of the Planning Board, as a "significant site which warrants a significant building." Staley McDermet has attended many of the Planning Board meetings on behalf of HSI.

Throughout the Planning Board hearings, traffic on Boston and Bridge Streets has been a central concern, particularly since a Walgreens is being developed directly across Boston Street from the proposed Osco Drug Store. This retail use could have a severe negative impact on the intersection of Boston and Bridge (already rated "F"), and on Flint and upper Federal Streets.

The Planning Board has also been concerned about the importance of the site as an entrance to Salem. They have made significant efforts to encourage the developer to make the site plan and development more sensitive to its urban context, although to date the developers have made no significant changes. The Federal Street Neighborhood is also concerned that the Osco Drug building and site design is a generic design characteristic of suburban retail sprawl which threatens the integrity of the McIntire Historic District.

[Site Manager's Note: The Planning Board hearings have been concluded, See Above]


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