Star Market closed the supermarket, at 299 Broadway, in 2007, and the vacant site has remained one of Somerville's most talked about eyesores since then.
Plans for developing the site have been stalled since 2010, when the owner took the city to court over plans for the parcel.
Though the city won the recent court ruling, it's still too early to say what will happen next with the vacant Star Market.
The owner of the site, Comar Real Estate Trust, wanted to convert the building into an Ocean State Job Lot, a discount store.
However, in 2010 the city's planning board denied Comar's application for special permits, saying Ocean State Job Lot was not consistent with newly established "commercial corridor district" zoning along Broadway, which called for more mixed-use development and neighborhood-serving retail, according to the Wednesday-morning announcement.
In response to the planning board's decision, the owner, in September of 2010, filed a complaint against the city in Middlesex Land Court, arguing the commercial corridor district was unconstitutional and that the Somerville Planning Board didn't apply the zoning properly.
On Sept. 5, nearly three years later, Associate Justice Judith C. Cutler issued a decision rejecting the owner's complaint, according to the announcement.
"Good news," say aldermen, mayor
Ward 4 Alderman Tony Lafuente, whose neighborhood includes the vacant Star Market site, said of the court's decision, "I think it's very good news for Ward 4 and for the Broadway corridor."
"That parcel needs to be developed within the parameters of the vision of the city," he said.
In a statement, Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone said, "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."
Alderman At-Large William White, president of the Somerville Board of Aldermen, said, "I think it's good news for the city in a number of respects."
"It vindicates the Board of Aldermen's passage of the zoning," he said, adding it also vindicates the Somerville Planning Board's application and interpretation of the zoning.
"Hopefully it sends a message that, as a city, we do correctly enact zoning ordinances," he said. That message would tell developers it's better to cooperate with the city on projects than to take the city to court.
Not so fast: questions about what comes next
Neighbors who want to see the vacant Star Market site redeveloped quickly may be disappointed.
First, as White pointed out, Comar Real Estate Trust could appeal the recent decision. "It could further tie up the property," he said.
Somerville Patch left a message at the office of James Cohen, a trustee of Comar Real Estate Trust, but had not heard back at the time of this posting.
Anil Madan, the attorney who represents Comar Real Estate Trust, said, "We strongly disagree with the decision and we're looking at our options, including an appeal."
Madan said he would need to conduct a legal analysis of the court ruling and discuss the matter with his client.
Second, it's to soon to say if the owner, after a contentious legal dispute with the city, will be able to put the past behind him and cooperate with the city on new plans for the site.
"Hopefully we can move forward quickly," Lafuente said, but he stressed, "It's very, very new, this decision." He said he was hoping to meet with the mayor and the city's planning staff soon to discuss "next steps."
"If [the owner] is a good businessman, you put it behind you and you move on," Lafuente said, referring to the three-year court battle.
White agreed, saying, "I thought it was a well reasoned decision" and "an appeal might very well be fruitless."
Meanwhile, the owner isn't earning revenue on the vacant property. "It would be in everyone's best interest" to move forward with new plans for the site, said White.
If the current owner isn't interested in redeveloping the site, it would be in his best interest to sell to someone who is, Lafuente suggested.
"We want people who are proactive," he said.
Lafuente said a mixed-use development with a market, cafe, retail space and office space would work well at the site. "I think there are some options," he said.
Madan, who had not discussed the matter yet with his client and spoke in general terms, said, "Any notion of redevelopment has to make economic sense."
With the possibility of an appeal, questions about the personality dynamics between the owner and the city after a three-year court battle, and questions about the owner's motivation to redevelop the parcel, the Star Market site could remain vacant for a while longer.
On the other hand: Owner loses "grandfathered" rights
Another aspect of Cutler's court ruling is that the owner "lost the grandfathered rights" to put in a supermarket, said White.
In other words, even if Comar Real Estate Trust wants to find another supermarket tenant to take over the former Star Market site, it would need to get a special permit from the Somerville Planning Board.
That could be further incentive to redevelop the site.
As stated above, Somerville Patch left a message at the office of Comar Real Estate Trust trustee James Cohen but had not heard back by the time of this posting.