By Christopher Roberson
After months of legal arguments, public hearings and continuances, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) recently determined that the Boston Clear Water Company (BCWC) can remain open at 165 Lowell St. ZBA members decided that BCWC had been in operation prior to the enactment of the town’s zoning bylaws in the 1920s and is, therefore, a “grandfathered use.”
In May of this year, abutters Mary Bliss, Andrew Gallucci, Willis O’Brien and John Sievers filed three zoning complaints with Building Inspector Jack Roberto saying BCWC had violated the town’s zoning bylaws by operating at a site that was not commercially zoned. Bliss, Gallucci, O’Brien and Sievers also said that if the site was ever commercially zoned, two years had passed without it being used for that purpose. Therefore, they said, “the use is no longer lawful and is not protected from zoning enforcement as a lawful pre-existing non-conforming use, nor can the use of the property revert to commercial.”
However, Roberto denied their request to take action, which prompted Bliss, Gallucci, O’Brien and Sievers to bring the matter before the ZBA.
During the Oct. 2 ZBA meeting, Heather Sievers of Lowell Street expressed her ongoing frustration with BCWC owner Anthony Gattineri. “His plan is to drive the neighbors out,” she said. “Families that should be protected are being bled dry.”
Barry Paul, also of Lowell Street, said the lights at the spring are on “all night.” “It’s really bothersome to the neighbors, it’s a real eyesore,” he said.
In response, Attorney Julie Connolly, co-counsel for BCWC, said lighting had been used by BCWC’s predecessor, Pocahontas Spring Water.
However, Paul’s wife, Lisa, still disagreed. “I’ve lived here for 30 years; there have never been lights, and there has never been a tanker truck parked 100 feet from the street,” she said.
ZBA Member Anthony Moccia said he had noticed the recent addition of string lights, but does not understand why BCWC would do something like that given the circumstances. “Why rock the apple cart?” he asked.
Although the emotion was more than evident, Moccia said the ZBA was still required to “act within the four corners of the zoning code.”
Another Lowell Street resident, Mary O’Brien, took aim at Gattineri. “You have done a lot of this; I hope you’re proud of yourself,” she said. “This is about the quality of our lives. This is a disgrace.”
O’Brien also said BCWC employees make noise “just to annoy residents.” “At 11 at night, there’s music playing,” she said. “Our lives have been turned upside down.”
In addition, O’Brien said there are two tanker trucks parked at the spring, although neither of them are being used.
BCWC customer Deborah Spielman of Beverly spoke in favor of keeping the spring open. “I’m confused what the trauma could be from such a small, quiet business,” she said. “The music is so quiet, I’m confused.”
Spielman she has been visiting the spring every week for the past 21 months. “Thank God for the water, it’s pure goodness,” she said.
Martin Rowen of Reading said that while there is music playing, he has never found it do be loud or disturbing. “That kind of music is designed to lower your blood pressure,” he said, adding that he has frequented the spring since 2016, and “It’s a quiet spot. It’s rather subdued. I’ve never found it to be a breeding ground of animosity; it’s not designed for that.”
Jenna Modica of Rockport said she has been a BCWC customer for the past year. She said it is very easy to drive by the spring without even seeing it. “You have to know where you’re going,” she said.
Modica also said the spring provides her with an outlet from daily life. “It’s a highly stimulating world; when I go there, I’m with myself,” she said.