Quincy city councilors will delay a vote on an Asian grocery store proposed for North Quincy until late April, after they have collected more information on traffic.
Councilors have been taking testimony and gathering information on the proposal for a 25,000-square-foot C-Mart supermarket off Hayward Street since early March, weighing the traffic impacts and neighborhood opinions.
Though allegations of racial bias have played a role during two public hearings, and though addressed by the city’s mayor in a public letter to the council, they were only briefly mentioned by a councilor Monday, during the city’s third hearing on the proposal.
“There were several folks in favor who brought race into it and several people opposed that brought race into it,” said City Councilor Brian Palmucci. “…For me, this issue will not be decided on race, on ethnicity, on anything of that nature. It will be based on the merits.”
Councilors mainly discussed traffic during their four-hour Monday night meeting, something Councilor Joseph Finn referred to as a “key issue” at the meeting’s start.
The verse is a similar one heard in hearing in the first proposal for a C-Mart store, which the council rejected in 2009 due to traffic concerns.
Yet this time, after a judge remanded the issue back before the City Council, councilors must review the traffic in light of what traffic might be like with other developments allowed under current zoning, and not what it would be like compared to now.
“As this comes back before us, the settlement defines certain parameters being imposed on us on how to consider the evidence,” Finn said.
According to Attorney Edward Fleming, representing C-Mart owner Miao Kun “Michael” Fang, other uses such as a mixed-use office space, movie theater, medical building, garden center, and restaurant would generate more trips.
None of those proposals would require City Council approval, due to size and zoning, and thus any traffic remedies currently being proposed would never be done, Fleming said.
Fleming also referenced the Shaw's development, which has since become the Hannaford Supermarket, and is situated next to the proposed development on Hayward Street.
According to Fleming, traffic engineers predicted a turnout for the Shaw's that was much higher than what occurred. Thus, any estimated traffic numbers should be lessened considerably.
Furthermore, traffic measures proposed by Shaw's, such as restricting parking along Hayward Street and utilizing an off-site parking lot, were never fully implemented.
Those fixes, coupled with ones proposed by the applicant, could help considerably improve traffic in the corridor, Fleming said.
“Based on our numbers, our review and the mitigation that’s proposed and being implemented, traffic would work on that site,” Fleming said.
The city’s traffic engineer, John Gillon, did not know why "No Parking" signs had not been installed. Even if they had been, Gillon was skeptical that the site could handle another grocery store.
“My assessment is we have a tough situation out there now, we’re adding a high- generation use,” Gillon said. “It’s not a low-generation as a warehouse distributor or garden center that may have off peak hours … I think you’re going to have gridlock beyond what you have right now, and I think there may be better uses that are permissible that may have better impacts than this one.”
Gillon went on to say that proposed mitigation, such as adding a left-hand turn lane at one intersection and signalizing the traffic lights, coupled with additional parking in the C-Mart lot, wouldn’t be as effective as the proponent’s engineer has proposed.
The city’s peer reviewer for the traffic has stayed in the middle of the road of the discussion, noting the pros and cons of the traffic solutions the applicant has proposed.
Councilors will further debate the traffic alongside drainage issues at a follow up hearing on April 23. In the meantime, representatives for Fang have continued to press for approval.
“I think this is a [in keeping with the] change of the character of this neighborhood…” Fleming said. “This property is the last industrial property [in this area]. Now as a city we say no? That’s my point…it’s a logical continuation of that chain of events.”