WILMINGTON, MA — Global Montello Group would like to build a gas station, and an eventual second building to house a yet-to-be determined business, at 100-104 West Street, at the intersection of Lowell Street and West Street.
At its April 12th meeting, the Wilmington Board of Appeals considered the company’s request for the necessary special permits to build the proposed project.
Former Selectman Mike Newhouse served as Global’s attorney. Former Town Manager Mike Caira served as Global’s municipal consultant.
Board of Appeals Chair Ed Loud explained that at least four of the five members of the board would need to vote in favor of special permit requests. Loud pointed out that board member Anthony Barletta Jr. was on vacation, so any vote tonight would need to be unanimous. Loud gave the applicants the option of rescheduling to a future meeting, but the applicants wished to proceed with their presentation as planned, understanding they would need all four members’ approval.
The Basics Of The Proposal
The gas station would be built on 4.62 acres of land, located at the Lowell Street/West Street intersection, next to Mr. Ticket, across from Mobil on the Run. (100-104 West Street, Map 71, Parcel 3, 4, 5) The land is predominantly vacant with just two vacant buildings on it. The land is zoned “general business.” 93 is to the east, West Street is to the west, a paper street is to the south, and Massachusetts Department of Transportation-owned land is to the north. The land is not in a flood zone. The proposed buildings would use septic, not sewer. The proposal meets the zoning bylaws. The amount of proposed parking exceeds the parking requirements.
Construction would occur in two phases. In the first phase a 4,800 sq. ft. gas station would be built. Described as “not your father’s gas station,” the station would include a deli-style Panera Bread-like restaurant with 20 indoor seats and 32 outdoor seats. There would be eight 3-grade pumps and two 3-grade pumps, plus Diesel.
It would be “incorrect to suggest it will become a truck stop,” stressed Global attorney Mike Newhouse, noting “truckers don’t go to dispensaries like this… It would be like trying to fill up Silver Lake with a garden hose. It’s not designated for that. There’s no place for tractor trailers to park except at the gas pumps.” Newhouse also noted the station’s layout is designed to accommodate delivery trucks without disrupting traffic.
During the second phase, a 3,000 sq. ft. building would be constructed behind the gas station, if facing it from West Street. No tenant or use is currently attached to the building, but Global is willing to accept conditions on what could go in there, including agreeing not to bring in a fast-food restaurant. Newhouse suggested a bank or small pharmacy as a possible use.
The intersection at Lowell Street and West Street is currently graded as a “D” overall, with several elements at an “F.” (Grade is based on wait time.) As part of traffic mitigation related to the project, Global would look at retiming the traffic lights and extending a right turn lane so that 10 vehicles could fit in the lane, as opposed to the current capacity of 3 vehicles. The project’s traffic consultant noted that even with the expected traffic improvements, the intersection would still maintain a “D” grade.
Under the scenario cited by Global’s traffic consultant, if the gas station were to be built, a restaurant was added to the site (which would be ‘worst case scenario’ that Global is willing to take off the table), and accounting for other developments in the area in the works, a vehicle – from any direction entering the intersection – would expect an average delay of 148 seconds. With the traffic mitigation and traffic optimization signalization at the intersection that the Global would undertake part of this project, the traffic consultant claimed the average delay would then decrease from 148 seconds to 96 seconds.
“There’s a number of types of projects that could go there without any special permit at all, including recreation and amusement venues (e.g., bowling alley) or a parking facility,” cautioned Newhouse. “A gas station is a passerby kind of use. This isn’t a destination.”
“This is about consumer choice,” added consultant Mike Caira, who noted he lives less than a mile from the site. “This gas station is a modern operation on seven times the area compared to the gas station across the street… Mobil on the Run is too intense with a gas station, convenience store, Dunkin Donuts, and Subway. This proposed gas station will have no such congestion. There will be plenty of room.”
“I’ve been in business for 31 years and this is the most preposterous proposal I’ve ever seen…. We don’t even have a traffic study,” said Attorney Robert Peterson Sr. “The Planning Board has never closed a public hearing prior to site plan review being completed… Something seems remiss here.” Peterson also pointed out that, over the past few years, Global twice unsuccessfully attempted to rezone a Lowell Street property, next to Burger King, to build a gas station.
“I’m not telling you how to vote, but I hope you vote against it. This is going to be a disaster,” State Rep. Jim Miceli told the board. “The people in this area need a break…. If I lived there, and this was approved, I would encourage residents to appeal [the decision].”
“I’ve been married to a truck driver for 22 years. Believe me, they’ll stop anywhere to get gas. This is gong to bring all sorts of trucks off the highway,” said resident Robin Anderson. “We’re trying to be pushed out of our property!”
“The crime is going to be horrible,” said one resident as she fought through tears. “I am fearful of the crime, drugs and traffic safety issues that this [gas station] would bring…. My 11 year-old brother is dropped off and picked up in front of our house for school. It won’t be safe [so close to the gas station].”
“The traffic will be horrendous,” added resident Bobby Surran. “I don’t care what you say — Truckers will stop there… And I’ve almost been in a number of accidents at the intersection [as it is].” The project’s traffic consultant noted that 67 crashes were reported at the intersection between 2010 to 2014,
“[The West St. area] is supposed to be a quiet community. These poor people,” said resident Nancy Murphy. “There are too many gas stations, Dunkin Donuts, and pizza joints in this town.”
Resident Joya Butler recounted recent violent criminal activity in the area, where the police noted the perpetrator of a “pistol whipping” said he chose the neighborhood due to “easy access to and from the highway.” Butler is concerned a second gas station would just exacerbate this problem.
“If you people vote for this, you should be ashamed of yourself,” resident Mike Bodnar told the Board of Appeals. “I [already] look out my window and can see the light pollution from Mobil on the Run… Another gas station is not the right project at that location.”
“I’m happy with the homey community I moved to 6 years ago,” said resident Michelle DeMao. “This project will attract people who don’t belong in town.”
“My main concern is for the safety of the kids with lots of transients being brought into the neighborhood,” said resident Bonnie Mondsie. “The proposed gas station would be open 24/7…. I’m also concerned about house break-ins.”
“Lots of little kids live in the area. [Due to traffic safety concerns], I don’t think I can let my child ride his bike to the Yentile Farm park,” said resident Pam Doyle. “And there’s been 5 recent break-ins in our neighborhood.”
“Maybe it’s true that a more detrimental project could eventually be built on the site, but you have to admit that THIS proposed project IS detrimental to the community,” added one resident.
“The intersection is already a disaster,” said Charles Benson, owner of Mr. Ticket. “There’s at least 3 accidents there a week. I see it. They pull into my parking lot afterwards.” Benson is also concerned about air pollution and childhood cancer rates in town.
Janice Ruggiero, a direct abutter to the project, was concerned how the two new buildings would affect the amount of water she already receives on her property, plus any effect on the little stream in the back of the property.
“What image are we trying to present of the town to folks who come off the highway?,” asked resident Bart Zaino. “[The West St. area] is the ‘forgotten neighborhood.’ It’s like the town line stops at Lucci’s… And no one from Wilmington will even benefit from this project.”
“Corporate greed is being prioritized over what’s right for this community,” said resident Barbara Call.
Caira & Newhouse Acknowledge The Concerns
“People have raised very good concerns tonight,” said Caira. “If there’s crime at the existing gas station, people need to contact police. This won’t be Mobil on the Run. It won’t have an absentee owner.”
“Let’s be honest. The land [where the project would be built] is a dump. This proposal is intended to clean that site up,” continued Caira. “The owners won’t want the site to look bad. They’ll take care of it.”
“Something is going there eventually. We shouldn’t get caught up in the hyperbole and conjecture,” cautioned Caira. “When you look at the entire span of potential development [that could go there], this is a good project.”
“We’re prepared to take uses of the second building off the table,” reminded Caira, who said he wouldn’t have represented Global if they were planning on building a fast food restaurant on the site.
“Folks have a lot of concerns around ascetics, noise, and safety,” acknowledged project attorney Mike Newhouse. “There are, however, lots of ‘by right’ uses where people won’t have the ability to make their concerns known…. And this company has a good reputation.”
The Board Responds
“I’m not comfortable voting tonight. I want to wait for the traffic study and site plan review,” emphasized Chairman Ed Loud. “I’ve never approved a project before without site plan review… I would also recommend the board limit what goes into the second building, plus the hours of operation”
“In my 17 years on the board, this is the first time I’ve heard about crime being such an issue in any case I’ve heard,” said Loud. “I will inform the Wilmington Police Department [about crime at Mobil on the Run and in the neighborhood], and I strongly urge all of you to do the same.”
Loud also encouraged concerned residents to attend any Planning Board meeting where this project will receive site plan review. “Tell them what you told us,” suggested Loud.
“My concern is what could come down the road at that location,” Board of Appeals member Dan Veerman told his colleagues, echoing an argument Caira and Newhouse both made.
The Board of Appeals unanimously voted (4-0) to continue the hearing to its June 14 meeting so that site plan review can be completed. If Loud is elected to the Board of Selectmen, the Town Manager would appoint a replacement, likely in May. A delay in that appointment could cause a delay in this case. Loud further tempered residents’ expectations, noting the hearing could be continued again on June 14 and that, sometimes, it takes the board a year or longer to reach a decision.
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