By George P. Hassett
The city’s Planning Board voted tonight to reject a bid by a discount close-out store to open in a Broadway lot vacant since 2007, causing a lawyer for the property owner to cry foul over the city’s handling of the process.
After the Planning Board voted unanimously to accept city staff’s recommendation to deny Ocean State Job Lot the special permit they needed to open at 299 Broadway, Bob Allen, the attorney for property owner James Cohen, said his client may pursue a lawsuit against the city.
“When we first met with the mayor and the mayor said, ‘Over my dead body would Ocean State Job Lot go in there,’ I think it was an uphill battle from there,” Allen said. “When we go before a board appointed by the mayor knowing that over his dead body would it go in there, I wasn’t expecting [approval]. I’m very disappointed in the way we were treated.”
Cohen declined to comment to reporters after tonight’s meeting, making golf swing motions with his hands while Allen spoke.
Ward 4 Alderman Walter Pero said he supported the ruling to keep Ocean State out based on the city’s recent rezoning of Broadway. “We rezoned so we could do better,” he said. “And we can do better there.”
In a report from planning department, city officials wrote, “In general, while this proposal will fill a vacant building, it will not bring any significant benefit to the streetscape and urban design of Broadway on Winter Hill. Given that surrounding businesses are already struggling and many are continuing on in hopes that the neighborhood will turn around, approval of the proposed permit could potentially result in more vacancies and disinvestment.”
At a meeting last month, Job Lot executives said if opened, the store would employ approximately 50 to 60 Somerville residents.