Selectmen Decline To Jump Into Debate On Global Gas Station Proposal, But Defend The Process

WILMINGTON, MA — At last week’s meeting, the Wilmington Board of Selectmen received an update from Town Manager Jeff Hull on the Global gas station proposal. Later in the meeting under ‘Public Comments,’ each Selectman was also questioned by a resident as to whether they support or oppose the controversial proposal.

Town Manager Provides Update

“In many respects, this project is not unlike other projects that come before the Board of Appeals or the Planning Board for site plan review,” began Town Manager Jeff Hull, who wanted to provide Selectmen with an update on this particular case because each member recently received 26 letters from residents raising concerns about the project.

“It’s important to understand that the Board of Selectmen, at this stage of the process, has no jurisidication or authority to either approve or disapprove of this project,” stressed Hull.

The gas station proposal calls for 10 fueling pumps, spread across five islands, with a canopy overhead. The 4,200 sq.-foot retail convenience store will include a cafe and outdoor seating area. A second free standing 6,025 sq-foot building is proposed as a second phase to the project.  A specific use hasn’t been determined, but a bank, general service restaurant (no drive-thru), and pharmacy have all been mentioned.  The site will have three access points — two access points off of West Street and one entry-only access point off of Lowell Street.  Parking is proposed for 54 spaces, which includes spaces at the fuel pumps.

The proposal’s proponents have gone in front of the Board of Appeals, which recommended they first go to the Planning Board for site plan review.  The proponents did just that at a July 11 meeting, which has been continued to Tuesday, September 5 to allow the proponents to address comments and potentially revise plans.  The proponents will soon be in front of the Conservation Commission in regards to a Notice of Intent, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, August 2.  The proponents are scheduled to be back in front of the Board of Appeals on Wednesday, August 9, although it’s not yet known if that date will be pushed back while the Planning Board completes site plan review. The proponents will also be contacting MassDOT, who must issue an access permit to construct a curb cut on Lowell Street to this property.

“The town is treating this as it would any other proposal,” said Hull, who pointed out that at the Community Development Review Technical Team Meeting, town officials had many comments and questions about the project.  Town Engineer Paul Alunni, for example, had many critiques of the project’s proposed stormwater management measures, which are currently being addressed by Global.

Selectmen Respond & Defend The Process

“This is going through the typical Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals process,” emphasized Selectman Chair Mike Champoux.  “I’ve read an ample amount on social media and we’ve all seen the signs.  As public officials, I [asked for this update from the Town Manager] because I felt we should have a complete set of facts and avail ourselves to what the process has been so we’re up to speed when speaking with constituents.”

Champoux took issue with a paragraph from the letter that Selectmen received, and that was published in the Town Crier (and on the Wilmington Apple):

“… The process that has taken place to date has lacked the transparency and scrutiny that a project of this size requires – raising suspicions and concerns as to what may be happening behind the scenes to accommodate this large out-of-town corporation.”

“I take exception to that comment,” said Champoux.  “It’s my heartfelt belief that this project, like all of these projects, is following the prescribed set of steps and sequences. Meetings are being held in the open. In many cases, they’re being publicized and broadcast. I can understand and appreciate someone creating a negative opinion of a project, but I’m very resistant to the idea that this is being done in an non-transparent manner.”

“I agree with you and I, too, highlighted that paragraph,” said Selectman Ed Loud. “I was Chairman of the Board of Appeals when this all started, when 100 or so people packed into this room.  I thought I was pretty fair and honest with them, suggesting they try to go to the Planning Board.”

“To write a letter like they did here really upsets me,” continued Loud.  “There has been no lack of transparency that I can see… And for all the people with signs out there, and those that signed this letter, please be respectful of the applicant.  He has his rights. I don’t think they are being respectful based on what’s being said out there.”

Resident Asks Each Selectmen Where He Stands

West Street Resident Mike Bodnar spoke out during the “Public Comments” portion of the meeting to ask each Selectmen if they supported or opposed the Global proposal.

“I don’t have enough information to make a determination as to whether a gas station is the perfect project for that spot,” said Champoux, who emphasized he wanted an open, transparent and appropriate process .  “I can tell you, I’m not in a position yet to be able to make a knee jerk reaction and say ‘no gas station’. Give me more information. Let me look into the data. Let me watch or attend the meetings. Let me learn.”

“I will, at some point, formulate a response.  I just don’t have enough information to give you a straight answer to if I’m in favor of if I’m opposed,” continued Champoux.  “Let the process flow naturally. At some point, I will create an opinion and won’t be ashamed to share it. That’s where I am today. Ask me again in a year.”

“I share those sentiments,” said Selectman Greg Bendel.  “We just received this package [of the letters and Town Manager’s update] this weekend.  I’ve been focused on what we had to vote on tonight.”

No other Selectman offered comments chose to offer comments at that time.

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