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Quincy City Council to revisit Asian "C-Mart" proposal

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 20, 2012 09:15 AM

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Quincy’s City Council will revisit a dispute about an Asian grocery store coming into North Quincy, after both the store owner and Quincy officials chose to work through the conflict rather than fight it out in court.

After the council denied a permit for C-Mart Supermarket in 2009, owner Michael Fang took the case to Land Court. But on Wednesday, a judge put the proceedings on hold and remanded the issue back to the council, ordering Ward 6 Councilor Brian McNamee to recuse himself from the discussion.

McNamee has been against the C-Mart store since it was proposed in 2009, and cited his concerns at the beginning of the permitting process when the 34,000-square-foot facility was proposed to the council.

C-Mart owner Michael Fang, who owns similar grocery stores in Boston, said McNamee went into the meeting with preconceived notions.

“It’s not fair for me. I don’t feel it’s right. Before, the old city councilors who represented the city, they should listen to what the residents need, the neighborhood, what they need. That’s number one. Also, you can make your own assumptions about anything before people tell you what they need,” Fang said in a phone interview.

McNamee said he could not comment on his opinions of the case, as it was not yet clear what the court had ordered. However, he hoped that when the issue returned to the council, he would be able to speak as a resident and as a neighbor of the project.

Despite the potential objections, Fang said the proposal this time around would be smaller – approximately 16,000 square feet dedicated to the retail space, with the remaining parts of the already existing building used for storage.

That would help lower the traffic numbers – a primary concern when the project was in front of the council three years ago.

“I will do the best I can to work with the city so everybody’s neighborhood and everyone would feel better. I’ll work with them,” Fang said.

Fang also said the store could provide numerous jobs for the city’s residents, and would add tax revenue to the city.

Overall, going back to discuss these things will be the best option, Fang said.

City Solicitor Jim Timmins agreed that returning to the council is the best for all involved, as it most likely would have ended up there anyway.

“The concern was that the court, even if we established, which we thought we would, that there were traffic issues that warranted a denial, the judge was concerned that the procedural irregularities might be such that he would have to remand the case back in any event,” Timmins said.

The “irregularities” were that McNamee had previous knowledge of the project and so went into the process with his mind seemingly made up.

“I thought Brian was in a tough position. He was in a city councilor and had to advocate for his ward, but he was also on the permit-granting authority. That’s one of the problems we have when the council acts as a permit-granting authority,” Timmins said. “So we took him off the board and that’s what changed it. He will be able to be an advocate, but he won’t be voting on the project.”

The Land Court also ordered that the city’s traffic engineer meet with Fang’s traffic engineer to discuss findings, that the hearing be videotaped, and that the council “shall not base its decision in any way on ethnic bias."

Timmins expects the issue to come before the council sometime in March, as under the court order, both sides need to report back to the judge by April.

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