Residents Furious Over Proposed Gas Station At West St. & Lowell St. Intersection

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.”

Residents React

“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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6 thoughts

  1. WOW
    That’s about all I can think to say
    I attended the Appeals board meeting Wed night the 12 of April at the town hall. On the agenda this night was the requested approval of proposed gas station restaurant to be built at the West st. Lowell st [129] intersection, behind the Mr.Ticket building. This intersection is so bad with traffic it has been graded F by the state, due to the congestion of traffic. My interest in this proposal is that as a resident of the town I am concerned by the over development and constant traffic that has been caused by the apparent lack of regard for the residents as long as those who build and those who work for those who do the building can make a buck. Another reason for my interest in this matter is that My parent’s neighborhood ,the one I grew up in, is also directly affected by this proposal. I was not surprised to see that this meeting was standing room only with many of my former neighbors and current residents from all parts of town in attendance at this hearing as well as a few lawyers and State Rep Miceli…all opposed to this “Abomination” as Attny Peterson called it. Much to my surprise was who was in attendance and was hired by the company who is proposing this gas station restaurant and attempting to gain the support of the town and the appeals board. None other than a former selectman and the former town manager. These two former town officials attempted with incredibly weak arguments to convince the residents and the appeals board of the fantastic benefits of price competition with the Mobil station across the street, how traffic won’t be that much more an issue [as the intersection is already graded an F by the state] . Most appalling were the threat by these officials for hire was that something much worse could go into that property…maybe even affordable housing or a parking lot, that is if the board did not approve of this particular proposal. A few of the neighborhood mothers tearfully asked questions in regard to safety,the constant traffic, the noise, the lights, the pollution , the crime that has been increasing in that area, the drug issues that abound these type of places and the fact that a 24 hour gas station restaurant will end up as a truck stop. The reply to these issues…. “the police won’t let that happen” and “if those problems exist then the town should do something about it”…seriously ….you couldn’t even look these people in the eye Mr.Former Town manager, WE ARE THE TOWN and you are too, or has you consulting fee blinded you to the fact that this is not needed or wanted in this part of town.You are paid to sell this “Abomination” I wonder if you or the former selectman have ever driven a truck…not necessarily a tractor trailer, perhaps just a box truck on route 93 from Braintree to Methuen? Are there any off ramps that provide access to fuel, food restrooms and parking in one area?…Well guys not yet but soon enough…right…? How appealing it will be for those who venture into wilmington from the highway to be met with not one but two multi purpose refueling areas….great prices too….such a benefit to the town and neighborhoods. On another note, “something else might go there instead of a restaurant” was mentioned by the the ones hired to convince everyone of the fantastic benefits of over development… …” A bank or drug store, instead of a restaurant”…. Just a thought on that; an easy on and off the highway would appeal to most people who would like to get away after robbing such an establishment…I think a bank or drug store would figure that out…as did the bank that was formally across the street, what is your answer to that ? Perhaps they will be caught up in all the traffic at the intersection or they will be so amazed at the fantastic price of gas due to the competition with the Mobil station they will pull in and fuel up time, enough for the police to respond. As odd as some of those candidates seemed the other night and their occasional accusations that they have made in the past about things going on behind the scenes in this town….I can almost see what they mean and in this example it is right in front of us. Clearly this is a bad thing for the town and one does not need an expert to tell you that, or a bought and paid for former Selectmen and Former Town Manager to tell you it is. These two men have done wonderful things for this town in the past…but as hired guns for a large oil company they cannot put forth a good and trustworthy argument for this. There are just too many negative aspects for this type of use in this area I can only hope that the appeals board and planning board does the right thing on this matter. For the benefit and safety and what integrity is left of this town and its neighborhoods.
    Robert Warren

    1. You people need to get a grip. The property is near interstate RT 93. Where else would you allow a property like (Gas stations) this to go in your town? No where else! It’s like saying you don’t want a porn shop, strip club or pot shop in your town. To bad! Fed & state laws say you need to allow it if it is a legally run establishment. You can say as a town where to put it, but you can’t refuse to take it if it is a legally run lawful establishment. Furthermore, if this is about the RT 93 traffic, there wasn’t a problem when you or your parents decided to purchase the property because it was so close to RT 93 and an easy on/off and faster commute rather than living “inland” more from the highway was it? Probably not. So, to moan and groan about the traffic, while you reap the benefits, that you all have endured for so long and enjoyed a shorter commute, it comes with consequences. Maybe it’s time to put a porn shop, strip club or pot shop in that property? It sucks for those of you in proximity to the property, I understand 150%, but at some point you need to realize it is going to be developed no matter what, unless a group decides to put up the money and buy it and conserve it. You better decide on which lesser of evil you want to deal with in Wilmington. One last thing. Having been in business myself (not in Wilmington) I wonder how much of the anti-Global sentiment is being delivered on behalf or by the owners of the shops in the adjacent (cross street) Mobil station, REd Heat, Burger King, et al?? These people would of course no longer have a monopoly on that intersection and do have the most to lose. I feel might be the entire crux of the issue!.

      1. Well I guess you made your point.
        I’m curious, How long have you lived in this town? Getting from one side to the other was not an issue 15- 20 years ago, I see no benefit of living so close to a highway,and I really doubt anyone would buy a house for that purpose alone anyway. If anything they have to travel further for shopping,schools and church,this will make it worse. The porn shop,strip club and pot shop you seem to have an issue with would have to abide by the zoning area which I believe is off Ballardvale st. This would be a great place for this service area project and your porn shop. I don’t understand what the local business’ could possibly gain from more traffic in front of their establishments neighborhood, but more customers but I’m not a businessman. But this is a square peg being put in a round hole.
        I don’t think you understand the point of the opposition,this is a 24 hour service area,I drove a straight truck for over 10 years, I would definitely use this place for food and fuel, as will many more. Its convenient to 93 ,it will be busy and be a magnet for criminal activity Do you understand what a drug hub is? Well this place is perfect for one, just what the overburdened police department needs 24-7 to keep an eye on this. This is the wrong place for a truck stop…and that’s what it is. It is across the street from a residential neighborhood . I don’t live there, I grew up there, back when the only traffic light was on church and main st.I now live across town. The traffic has gotten pathetic, this will make it worse. Yes it would be nice for the area to be developed, but 2 office parks have tried and failed…due to the traffic issues it’s not about the burger joints, pot,porn and strippers it’s about traffic, increased crime and quality of life. They should have considered building it on Ballardvale st. also off 93… where it too is zoned for all of your concerns and won’t affect a neighborhood.

  2. All the people in Wilmington pay a fee on their cable television bill. This amounts to a tremendous amount of money going to WCTV from the cable provider. Has everybody noticed that these meetings are not televised? The entire town would be in an uproar over this proposal. I believe a local television company getting a tremendous amount of user tax money from the cable provider should have to carry all local government meetings. This would help keep town officials somewhat honest. The same guys that said your taxes were going to go up only the equivalent of a cup of coffee per day want you to beleive them regarding this proposal. Wilmington is beginning to wake up and I am excited to see it. Let’s unite to make Wilmington great again. NO MORE ABUSING THE RESIDENTS OF WILMINGTON.

  3. That’s a joke putting a big gas station there , there is 6 gas stations within a two minute drive . This idea will only create much more traffic at that intersection that we do not need. It’s obvious people behind this stupid idea are in it for the money only no way could they think it’s a good thing.

  4. If it’s so convenient to get to other gas stations in town how do you explain the Mobile always being crowded despite their gas being $3/gallon when the stations over on 38 are literally a maximum of $2,30/gallon?

    I wonder how much funding the Mobile folks have contributed to stop more competition? It would certainly be a smart move on their part.

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