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IPSWICH, MA – New England Biolabs, Inc. is all set to redevelop a former Catholic retreat center here into its new corporate headquarters but a trio of lawsuits filed by five residents whose properties abut the 133-acre site is preventing the biotech company from moving ahead with its plans.

The redevelopment plan was the first approved under this town’s Great Estate Bylaw. The bylaw, passed three years ago, enables commercial entities to be developed on properties that could be developed into single-family housing. “The planning board believes this is an excellent project and that the applicant has been very responsive to the town’s requests,” Glenn Gibbs, director of planning and development for Ipswich, tells GlobeSt.com.

Essentially, Gibbs says that the residents oppose having a commercial development in a residential neighborhood. The lawsuit challenges the planned construction of a wastewater treatment facility, the project’s use and storage of hazardous materials, the impact of the plan on the water supply, and the site plan review for the project. However, Gibbs notes that the majority of residents surrounding development support Biolabs. “It’s a very limited opposition,” he says.

Nevertheless, the limited opposition has been effective in preventing Biolabs from starting construction on its 150,000-sf manufacturing plant, which is the first phase of its three-phase plan. Biolabs will also require a special permit for the site of its building and that approval could be appealed.

Biolabs purchased this site two years ago when it made plans to move from its offices in Beverly off Route 128. At the time, 30 local residents signed a petition supporting the company’s move here.

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