Winter Hill Star Market lawsuit settled in city’s favor

On September 11, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

star_marketA judge has ruled in the City of Somerville’s favor in a lawsuit filed by the owner of the former Star Market in Winter Hill, who contested denials of a building permit and two special permits and the legality of the City’s Zoning Ordinance. The judge entered a summary judgment dismissing all of the plaintiff’s claims.

The ruling upholds the zoning amendments that went into effect on Feb. 10, 2010, that created two new Commercial Corridor Districts along Broadway, including at the intersection of Broadway and Temple Street, established with the goal of promoting more neighborhood-serving retail in mixed-use buildings, bringing to Winter Hill the same vibrancy and long-term planning strategy that has revitalized other Somerville neighborhoods with an eye toward walkability.

Comar Real Estate Trust had its building permit for 299 Broadway denied on Feb. 22, 2010, because the building is within one of those Commercial Corridor Districts, and converting the former supermarket to an Ocean State Job Lots store would require two special permits under the city’s Zoning Ordinance.

In a written decision dated Sept. 2, 2010, the Somerville Planning Board denied Comar Real Estate Trust’s application for those two special permits because the proposed use was not consistent with the stated purpose of the Zoning Ordinance and Commercial Corridor Districts. Comar Real Estate Trust then filed its complaint in Land Court on Sept. 28, 2010.

The Middlesex Land Court decision dated Sept. 5, 2013, signed by Associate Justice Judith C. Cutler, rejected the plaintiff’s arguments that the proposed use of the building meets the special permit requirements or that the Zoning Ordinance violates state and U.S. constitutional law.

In doing so, the court upheld the community-driven vision for Winter Hill that would bring more walkable retail to the neighborhood that serves residents’ immediate needs and decreases reliance on driving for those daily needs, while increasing available housing in the neighborhood through multi-tenant, mixed-use buildings—the same successful formula that has created active neighborhood squares throughout the city.

“With this impasse now concluded, the City looks forward to working with Comar Real Estate Trust and neighbors in Winter Hill in realizing the community’s vision of a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood,” said Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “Change is not always easy, but I know that by doing the hard work, meticulous planning and long-term visioning, we can create an environment that benefits both businesses and residents, preserving what we love about Somerville while making our neighborhood more walkable and livable. Like the ongoing transformation on lower Broadway in neighboring East Somerville, we are looking to build community in Winter Hill, and are excited to work with Comar Real Estate Trust and the community to continue creating a resilient and self-sufficient economic base for Winter Hill and our city.”

“Developments that create both multiple storefronts and additional housing are integral to reviving Broadway while keeping the diversity and character of Ward 4 intact,” said Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente. “Ward 4 residents would get an array of retailers to meet their daily needs within walking distance of their homes, and tax burden relief from the expansion of commercial square footage. Our long-time Winter Hill businesses that we cherish would also benefit from a refreshing change in the business climate. I am relieved that this issue has been resolved, that the Land Court decision backs Ward 4 residents’ vision for their community, and know that the City can work with Comar Real Estate Trust in finding a solution that works for all.”

The Land Court Decision is docket number 10 MISC 440303. The plaintiffs were Comar Real Estate Trust by James A. Cohen, and James B. Marcus, Co-Trustees. The defendants were the City of Somerville, the Somerville Planning Board, and members of the Planning Board that issued the written decision in Sept. 2010 denying the special permit applications.


22 Responses to “Winter Hill Star Market lawsuit settled in city’s favor”

  1. Adam says:

    An Ocean State Job Lot is not what this neighborhood needs.

  2. Darnell says:


    You stated what this site does not need. What Does the site need. I know it needs more than what it has now-stagnation,blight,urban decay, and lost potential. Maybe the Joseph A. Curtatone Library can go there-after all, he’s a legend in his own mind. Please develop the site and put it to good use. It’s wasting away.

  3. A.Moore says:

    Maybe not but better than nothing or what the city wants to do with it.

  4. ritepride says:

    The people of the neighborhood know what they want. They should meet with the property owner and come up with a decision on who the tenant of the properyt should be. Then they should march on city hall to the BOA meeting and lay down the law to their employees – the mayor & board of aldermen. They (mayor-BOA) are supposed to be working for your needs and have failed the neighborhood for too long.

  5. PixiePocahontas says:

    They should add another Market Basket to this region of the city and Winter Hill is the best place for it. The store on Somerville Avenue has too many crowds which cannot accommodate the amount of people who wish to shop there.

    And I don’t want to hear the argument that they will only build if they can have a giant foot print. If the city administration was doing its job right, they would meet with the owner of Market Basket and tell them they need a second store. The neighborhood would love it.

    I don’t like the Stop & Shop in Ward 7 which replaced our Johnnies Foodmaster. They did nothing but hang up a few curtains, the place has a bad odor since it was left sitting there for nearly a year. Many of us wanted to see a Trader Joe’s, but they won’t come to Somerville. Ever wonder why? They must have a connection to Stop & Shop and that’s why they came. Their decisions are not based on “what is good for our constituents”–to the contrary, t’s become only, “what are the gains for us”.

    The name of the game here fella’s is holding out for large returns on the sales and buying cheap.

    When they lost their jobs and were basically kicked out without so much as a thank you for your 35 years of service–presented with short notice, no medical benefits or promise of a new job to buyer Whole Foods, Foodmaster employees said the owner intentionally let the place go down the tubes because he every intention of selling–so why remodel?
    I remember reading the comments about lack of cleanliness, etc., but it’s up to the owner to enforce it, not its employees. At $50 million to Whole Foods–they guy couldn’t run to the bank fast enough and he never looked back, he was second generation Foodmaster, son of the owner now in his 80’s who was a stand up guy by what the employees shared.

    They want, what they want–Whole Foods by the dozens all around this region. Buy deliberately keeping out affordable grocer’s, they are attacking the economic viability of the working class and elderly constituents they were hired to serve.

    It’s only business as usual now, there are no real constituency services–it’s become another corporation which just charges too much and does not provide service.

  6. PixiePocahontas says:


    I couldn’t agree with you more. Let me know when you plan to march.
    I’ll get my boots on.

    You must understand by now, other good businesses who wish to work independently and provide service to working class residents will not come to the city because they don’t want to eat Devil’s Food Cake…..

  7. PixiePocahontas says:

    ……. same as for working class and affordable housing, this administration doesn’t want them and we are considered to be a “pain in the ass” now because we know their tricks and the burden they have saddled us with–it’s easier to deal with the hipster crowd and high end yuppies–because when they come up short at the end of the month, another check from mom or the trust fund is just a phone call away.

  8. A. Moore says:

    ritepride, you just can’t post stuff like that here. Common sense and have the nerve to ask people to do their job that they are paid well to do?

    I liked the idea that the people of Everett had the chance to vote for a casino. It was just nice seeing the people actually have some say in it. I don’t know why we can’t have some say or rather the power to do what we as voters, homeowners and taxpayers should have a right to. They are supposed to work for us. I always thought of it as asking Joe to come paint my kitchen blue. He says fine, I will do a great job for you. I come home and the living room is blue, why? Because that was his vision. IF he worked anywhere else he would have been fired on the spot.

  9. JPM says:

    Foodmaster was and Shaws currently is drab and dirty. At least the Stop and Shop near Teele Square is clean and has all the basic things you need and the shelves are constantly stocked. This is a trademark of Stop and SHop, they are clean. Shaws in Porter Square for example is expensive, dirty and the shelves are constantly missing stock. Johnnies went bust and closed all their stores – too bad for them, but Stop and Shop is a good addition.

  10. Matt says:

    I live close to this, and the neighborhood, while decent, is on the edge of returning to the crummy vibe you see down on the other side of Mcgrath. Job lots are frequently disgusting and are the mark of declining shopping centers. To put in the same blunt terms as my 13 year old neighbor; “job lots is way ghetto man”.

    Broadway already looks like a disaster area as you get down near Sullivan. Nobody wants to just come out and say that the old Star Market is the clear border between the part of Somerville you want to live in and the part where a young woman can’t feel safe walking alone after dark. It’s in everyone’s mind but it’s not PC to say that It feels clean on one side of the hill and trashy on the other.

    Broadway has seen linear gentrification starting at Powderhouse, through Ball and over Winter Hill. Working down the next block with something that feels clean and upscale is the next step.
    Im extremely happy there wont be a Job Lots, as it would feel like the tide of crap would be coming back up the hill. Level the whole block. Get rid of the gross Rite Aid, the run down liquor store, and the hideous building Star Market was in.

    Put in something that will attracts family’s with money or college kids instead of the cart pushers and keno players.

    I know how it sounds but I don’t care. Somerville is a beautiful place until you walk past Temple St.

    We don’t need more decaying storefronts and noxious clouds of loitering smokers arguing over scratch tickets.

  11. Boston Kate says:

    Market Basket will never come to the old Shaw’s location; it’s just too small.

  12. joshua says:

    Matt, you are arrogant and pretentious. If you have chosen to live in an urban city, sorry, but you have to take the good with the bad. Have you noticed the housing project on Temple Street? Would you prefer that the people living there be trucked out to……..anywhere else? This is the ultimate NIMBY attitude. I suspect that Somerville has not been your backyard for long. You have come here to our home and will now dictate what ‘your’ backyard should look like. I’m not saying that the area can’t look better. Of course it can, but who are you to say that we should ‘get rid of’ the Keno players, smokers and cart pushers? They live there. They are presumably your neighbors. Say hello and maybe find out why they have nothing in their life beyond Keno and that might change your attitude.

  13. Ron Newman says:

    Kate: I didn’t think Stop & Shop would come to a place as small as the old Alewife Foodmaster, but they did.

  14. Ron Newman says:

    Matt: have you noticed that Broadway in East Somerville is becoming a restaurant destination? Are you familiar at all with East Somerville Main Streets? That area is doing a lot better than the Winter Hill section of Broadway right now.

  15. Local Res says:

    I’m with Matt on this one – I live in the area and would hate to see that site turned into a Job Lots. It should be something more upscale, even a Market Basket would do, but Trader Joe’s would be better. How about Roche Brothers, like Boston just announced its getting? I’d also be in favor of demolishing the whole site, Rite Aid and the Liquor Store included, and having a developer come in to build a mixed-use building with retail on the first floor, maybe offices above, and housing — even a mix of affordable and market rate housing would do.

    I’m new to the neighborhood, too. But that doesn’t mean we want to displace everyone- it just means that we want the area cleaned up and looking less run down. While East Somerville finally has a pulse, it’s not going to rapidly gentrify without major investments in the streetscape and public infrastructure–two things of higher quality in Winter Hill that make it a more appealing place to live, work, play and raise a family. For when those restaurants do eventually spring up in East Somerville, we’ll be able to leave WH and go to ES to enjoy them, but return home to the respite of a quieter, cleaner WH.

    There’s several solutions to be had – we just can’t let the building sit vacant for another five years in an otherwise hot real estate market.

  16. MarketMan says:

    Ron: I keep hearing that, but I haven’t seen much different on Broadway in East Somerville.

  17. Villenous says:

    Cohen got slapped away with a summary judgment? That’s awesome. It’s basically the judge saying, “Hope you like the taste of the back of my hand because here it comes.”

    So Cohen, who made it clear how little he cared for the surrounding neighborhood and for Somerville in general, has wasted years and who knows how much money pitching a fit over not getting his way. Good. I hope his lawyers milked him.

    One thing is for sure, Cohen won’t be doing anything with that property other than selling it. Can’t happen soon enough.

  18. A.Moore says:

    Even though Ocean State to me is not the ideal thing to put there I Know planty around here(Winter Hill) that would ahve made their life a little bit better by one there. Some of the elderly here don’t get to stores very much for those little things they need. Ocean State would have meant a lot to these people. Just to poke around in for those little things they need, sheets, some clothing and so forth. Not everyone has someone to take them places nor do some I know here have the money to travel around. My mother used to take some with her to Walmart. They would make a day of it there. They didn’t buy much(for you Walmart haters) but they had a good time and got some fo those needed small things they can’t get here in Somerville because this city does not offer any decent shopping. And, Ocean State is not so bad I go there myself and fine others I know from Somerville there. The store is picked up and clean. This is a side I don’t think many people see. Maybe because I am around a lot of elderly here I get to see and hear their problems. I have no problem with Matt’s opinion or anyone elses’s here regardless if it agrees with mine or not. Everyone is entitled to their own way of thinking. I don’t expect many to agree with me. But this city is so busy building for people it forgets the things that are needed to go with it. Not all of us are able bodied and have enough money to survive. We should be thinking of them as well.

  19. ritepride says:

    I thought….have the city take the land…B..U..T.. we have “Lego Joe” and he would give it away to Tax Exempt Tufts.

  20. A. Moore says:

    Nice, I don’t care about Rte Aid, I assume they are not fanchised but the liqour store and others in the building some of which are very hard working people who are just making enough to barely get by and also being nice people. I would hate to see anything happen to them. Some of the stores along Broadway are in the same boat, hard working just about making a living. They don’t have the moeny to make a fancy storefront. So let’s take and put them all out of business and have fancy coffee shops. Just keep drivng out the little guy and the low income elderly here instead of trying to make things work for all types here. Your multiuse brings high price shops which does nothing for many in the neighborhood expect makes things more of a hardship for them. We have had a big increase in homelesness here and this is part of what adds to it. Maybe 10 years down the line it might be the thing here in Winter Hill, who knows. It’s starting to get too late to think of the others aorund us and just those who can well afford it.

  21. city dweller says:

    Wow. Talk about NIMBY. These are the ‘newcomers’ that the townies resent, and rightly so. You move here because you think it’s cool, but you want it to look like the suburb you came from. It looked like this when you moved here, but now you are unhappy with the diversity. It goes with the landscape in an urban area. You’re happy as long as you don’t have to see the “cart pushers” and their poverty. Let’s make everything upscale, maybe the cart pushers can get a job in the restaurants that they can’t afford to eat in. Then they can catch a bus to Wellington Circle to Job Lots where they can afford to shop. Has anyone else noticed that each area of the city that has become ‘hip’ has also become less diverse? Walk around Davis Square someday….

  22. MarketMan says:

    city dweller: You are confounding 2 topics. I don’t have a problem seeing “cart pushers”, poverty, etc. I grew up reasonably poor for most of my childhood, and I understand the hardships. I have family that are still poor. My problem is the “I don’t care” attitude wrt property maintenance, trash, etc. There are too many properties that, frankly, look completely abandoned. I understand that some people are working families struggling to get by, and money for materials or time to fix things up are hard to come by. But at least clean up debris on your property, abandoned cars, overgrown weeds, etc. The same goes for the city. The *city* does not enforce property maintenance. I have been to poorer cities/towns that are far better maintained and managed.

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