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Quincy keeps ban on gas station food sales

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 20, 2013 04:36 PM

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A 1978 Quincy ordinance outlawing food sales at gasoline stations will remain intact after a proposed amendment was defeated by councilors 6-to-3.

Councilors debated the issue during a Monday night City Council meeting, ultimately deciding the longtime city ordinance was worth keeping.

“The bottom line is there is no reason to [change] it,” said City Councilor Brian Palmucci in a phone interview after the meeting. “Why change something for the sake of change? The argument was, 'Well, we should be modernizing our ordinances.' This isn’t the one I would start with.”

Palmucci said he hadn’t received a single phone call in favor or against the proposal, which would have made gas stations between 15,000 and 20,000 square feet eligible for food sales. Currently, gas stations may only have vending machines.

In addition to not seeing a demand, Palmucci said he was fearful that gas stations allowed to sell food would subsequently put coffee shop drive-thrus out of business.

“There are a significant number of convenience stores in the city, plenty of options to buy prepared food…I just didn’t see that there was any real outcry to allow gas stations to sell prepared food,” Palmucci said.

According to City Clerk staff, there are 21 gas stations in the city, though not all would have been eligible under the revised ordinance. Records show there are 33 convenience stores.

Councilors Margaret Laforest, Mike McFarland, and Brian McNamee voted in support of the measure.

According to McNamee, one-stop shopping made sense for people buying gas.

“I didn’t think it was a competitive issue for some of the standalone markets,” he said. “It’s also an opportunity for us to get more sales tax revenue, and I thought that was positive.”

McNamee said it was important for auto repair shops not to sell food, and drafted an amendment to the proposal to ensure as much. Yet his amendment fell along with the defeated proposal.

“I thought it was just bring us on par with other communities that permit that kind of activity,” McNamee said. “I was surprised it was defeated.”

On her Facebook page, Laforest said she had hoped to allow more options to customers in her ward.

“Ward One, particularly the peninsula area, doesn't have a store on every corner, and I believe would've benefited from giving neighbors options,” she wrote in a status. “Plus, they are already allowed to sell packaged products. The analogy used was you can pick up Hostess cupcakes but not a cup of coffee. I think a store counter is a better image then a bunch of vending machines.”

Previous discussions to change the food sale regulations have also been defeated, city officials said. With the recent defeat, Laforest wrote that it was unlikely the present council would revisit the issue.

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