Recent letters to the editor have raised questions and concerns about the proposal by Global Partners to build a retail gas station and convenience market at the intersection of Lowell and West Streets near the I-93 off ramp.
Global, a successful family owned business based in Waltham, approached me several months ago to ask if I would assist them in this project. I met with company representatives to review their proposal and I conducted independent research to evaluate the firm’s track record in other communities in which they conduct business.
After doing so, I was convinced that the proposal had merit and, more importantly, that Global’s retail operations in other communities had the highest standards for quality and safety. In addition, I learned that Global is an active participant in each community, supporting numerous public safety organizations, veteran’s groups and youth programs such as the Lowell Little League, the Billerica Fire Department, the Massachusetts Municipal Police Coalition and Boston Children’s Hospital.
Despite what some have suggested, Global is not proposing to build a “mega rest stop gas station” in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Global is proposing a modern retail gas station complete with state-of-the-art safety and environmental safeguards. The site is on commercial property sitting adjacent to the highway. It is not on land within the nearby neighborhood.
The proposed use complies with the town’s zoning by-laws and would clean up an otherwise neglected site containing three abandoned buildings. The initial phase of the project will consist of the gas station and a convenience market with an innovative approach to such facilities: a small sit-down cafe serving freshly made sandwiches, soups, salads and the like, as well as to-go items. The cafe will be equipped with Wi-Fi and will include outdoor patio seating.
The site will be landscaped and buffered to meet the town’s requirements for such a facility. Ample parking will be provided on site to ensure safe travel to and from the facility. There will be no access for large trucks to refuel at the facility.
Many residents have raised concerns about the project’s impact on traffic. A well-established Wilmington-based engineering firm was contracted to review traffic impacts and to propose appropriate mitigation. The study concluded that traffic generated by the project will be minimal at most, in part due to Global’s concession that only traffic traveling east toward 93 will be allowed to turn directly off Lowell Street into the gas station. The study, which is now being reviewed by an independent engineering firm hired by the town, also concludes that the project will have far less impact than the 100,000 sq. ft. office building that has been permitted twice in the past at this location.
It is disheartening to hear and read comments questioning the transparency of town officials and members of the Global team. We have attended five public meetings since February and Global has committed to posting all application documents online as soon as they are finalized for submission to the town. All of the town boards involved in this process have followed established procedures for evaluating such a proposal.
Most everyone agrees that this commercially zoned parcel will eventually be developed. Many of the build-outs that have and continue to be proposed for this parcel would create significantly greater traffic concerns. The Global development will generate tax payments for the town without incurring burdensome costs, thus netting out as revenue-positive. It will also provide a benefit for residents who drive in the area, giving them a new choice for both fuel and healthy food. If I thought otherwise, I would not be involved in this project.
Michael A. Caira
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