NEWBURYPORT — Members of the Planning Board are scheduled to go into executive session at their regular meeting tonight to discuss legal claims against the city by Plaza Realty Development Trust.
Plaza Realty is seeking permits to construct a pharmacy at 29-35 Storey Ave., but the fact that the Newton company has taken its concerns to the state Land Court indicates there is no quick remedy for an increasingly contentious land use situation.
Planning Board members are expected to hear an update on Plaza Realty’s claims, and the session likely will be closed to the public.
Plaza Realty filed an appeal to the state’s Land Court in mid-November, after its requests for approvals were rejected.
Its claim notes that the Zoning Board of Appeals has denied its appeal of the building inspector’s rejection of its requests for permits.
The Storey Avenue site is located between the Wendy’s and McDonald’s restaurants.
The dispute centers around the circumstance that Trustees of Plaza Realty, Richard Kaplan and David Kaplan, had received site plan approval in 2007 for development of a bank, restaurant and other retail use at that site. It did not proceed because of a weak economy.
The company returned last year, but Planning Director Andrew Port wanted to see changes to the 2007 plan.
In accordance with the city’s new approach to planning on the heavily traveled Storey Avenue, he recommended a “village” appearance that would require the building to be closer to the road so that parking would be behind the structure.
His approach to the Trust application appeared to note that the 2007 plan differed from that submitted in 2014. The 2007 plan called for three tenants. The 2014 plan proposed one tenant, a pharmacy, and other changes.
Lawyers for Plaza Realty say that the city is not respecting appropriate “grandfathering” measures that were approved in past years.
Plaza Realty lawyers, including former Mayor Lisa Mead, say the Trust is entitled to “a declaration that the 2007 site plan approval remains in full force and that the Planning Director is not entitled ... to condition his approval to any further modification of the 2007 Site Plan approval.”
One Trust complaint is that a municipal decision effectively denied the Trust’s application “by requiring it to recommence the process and submit a new plan that addresses the finding and determinations of the Planning Director.”
One of the Trust’s legal “requests” is that the Land Court “order the building inspector to grant the Trust a building permit.”
Part of the background of the dispute as cited in the Trust’s complaint to the Land Court is that in 2007, the planning director was Nancy Colbert. She has left City Hall. City Hall observers say that a planning interpretation held by one planning director is not necessarily embraced by a successor.
In recent months, the city has been receiving advice and legal guidance from its city solicitor of record, the Boston law firm of Kopelman and Paige.