May 16, 2022

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The Car & Automotive Devotees

Global apologizes, commits to maintaining gas station site | News

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NEWBURYPORT — Representatives for Global Oil apologized Monday night for neglecting to maintain the vacant gas station at 107 State St. and committed to finding a path for the site to be used for residential purposes.

Newburyport attorney Jeff Roelofs represented Global at a public hearing before the City Council. He was joined by Jaclyn Harrison, corporate communications and public relations manager; Ryan Lawlor, director of real estate; and Steve Barakian, vice president of facility maintenance and services.

“Global understands that there has been a lack of maintenance at this property,” Roelofs said, explaining that Global wanted to be clear in apologizing for this. He added that Harrison will be the person to contact if there are any future issues with the property.

The hearing was called after neighbors sent a letter to the council this summer, outlining issues with the site that include overgrown weeds and a lack of grounds maintenance, sidewalks not being cleared of snow and ice during the winter, illegal public parking, and its use by motorists as a cut-through to avoid the traffic light.

An online petition calling on the city to “End the Blight at State and High” received more than 400 signatures.

Nine residents spoke at the public hearing Monday night, all calling for the city to take action at the site. At least 10 other residents submitted written comments, as well.

After speaking with city officials and hearing about the concerns, Global mowed the site and hired a contractor to ensure future maintenance of the grounds, Roelofs said.

The company also lined up a contractor for the winter to ensure the sidewalks are clear of snow and ice, he said.

“Immediate action was taken, but there is obviously a lot more to do,” Roelofs said.

Global initially placed Jersey barriers on the property to prevent motorists from cutting through the site at the traffic light, but Roelof said the company will work with the city to find a more visually appealing solution.

The company vowed to end the problem as well as the illegal parking. Global will work with the Newburyport Fire Department to prohibit parking while still allowing the department to have access to the site, if needed.

Until a permanent solution is found, the company will put up “no parking” signs and leave notices on any vehicles parked there to alert their owners, he said.

The company plans to remove some trees from the site next week, as requested by an abutter, due to the trees’ health.

Global also addressed three issues raised in a recent memo from the city Building Department. Roelofs said a contractor will use aluminum panels to cover the sign on State Street, securing the interior electrical ballast and the deteriorating sign.

The other concerns raised by the Building Department were a disconnected downspout on the building and the structural integrity of a retaining wall, which the company plans to inspect and address this week, he said.

The “canopy structures,” as many have referred to on the site, are actually fire suppression equipment, Roelofs said. Global plans to remove the equipment, including the tanks at the base, and repair the concrete there as early as next week, he said.

Future uses of the property are more complicated, Roelofs said, explaining that a 2010 agreement with Exxon/Mobil Oil Corp. included a deed restriction prohibiting residential uses on the property.

“The reason they impose these restrictions is because they are trying to manage that environmental liability,” Roelofs said, noting that most, if not all of, Exxon’s properties have these restrictions.

Global will likely need to team up with real estate developers to provide Exxon with a comprehensive plan, including construction details, whether a structure would have a basement, and how the ground would be disturbed.

Exxon will not release Global of this deed restriction unless it knows exactly what would go on the site and that there is a plan in place “to achieve residential cleanup standards,” he said.

Any cleanup would be funded by either Global or the residential developer, the attorney said.

“Global is totally committed to working with the city to try to find a path where it can be used for residential purposes,” Roelofs said.

The attorney said he did not find declaring the property as a nuisance to be productive and instead suggested continuing the hearing so Global can prove its commitment.

Council President Jared Eigerman said he would not like to continue the hearing for more than one meeting and to expect deliberations of some kind on the next date. The hearing was continued to Nov. 29 at 6 p.m.

“Immediate action was taken, but there is obviously a lot more to do,” Roelofs said.

Staff reporter Heather Alterisio can be reached via email at [email protected] or by phone at 978-961-3149. Follow her on Twitter @HeathAlt.