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Quincy councilor seeks zoning change in response to Braintree decision

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  December 13, 2012 03:28 PM

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In an effort to better protect the interests of Quincy residents, city councilors are seeking to gain more oversight over projects that border their community.

Quincy Councilor Brian Palmucci has been looking to amend the city’s zoning for the past several weeks, with plans to impose requirements on projects that straddle the borders of communities.

“This is the kind of protection some neighborhoods need that are on borders,” Palmucci said in a City Council meeting early this month.

Councilors still have to resolve legal and other questions before enacting the changes, but the general idea would apply to projects that include property in both Quincy and another community. It would require any such project to proceed through the same approvals in Quincy as in the other community, even if construction is to take place outside of the Quincy portion of the parcel.

The language, and the creation of the ordinance, comes after a zoning change of several parcels on Braintree’s Independence Avenue.

The parcel sits in both Braintree and Quincy, and developers hoped to rezone the area to a general business zoning.

Though no proposals have been submitted to Braintree, in neighborhood meetings with residents, ideas were floated for a large-scale residential complex on the site.

Concerned about potential proposals, Braintree and Quincy neighbors balked at the idea of a rezoning that would permit such a development, and formed an association to speak against any zoning changes.

Despite their concerns, Braintree councilors approved the rezoning, mostly because some sort of development would improve the blighted and environmentally problematic property and because over $158,000 in back taxes would finally be paid.

Since then, Palmucci has worked to require that any project to be built on the site will also go through Quincy channels.

“At the very least, the residents have a voice, they have a say, and you cannot bypass one community and going through the back door,” Palmucci said.

However, legal problems with such an ordinance have caused things to be on hold.

In the Dec. 3 meeting, City Solicitor Jim Timmins said he wasn’t comfortable with the ordinance because it could easily spawn litigation. He also said that this might be an attempt to bypass state zoning laws.

Questions of enforcement and other issues, such as what occurs if municipalities have different conclusions from similar approval processes, has also yet to be worked out.

According to Timmins, this legislation might not be necessary, as Quincy already receives notification about projects in abutting municipalities, and existing zoning requires the parking lot portion of this project to come before the council regardless.

"I think we have it covered. But his concern is yes we have some things covered but possibly not all. He wants them to come forward with the entire project," Timmins said in a phone call.

Councilor Doug Gutro suggested discussing the item at a later meeting after doing more research on similar ordinances. Timmins was unsure when that might occur.

In Braintree, however, government officials don't see the need for such an ordinance.

“I think, firstly, whenever you have any property that straddles the line of any neighboring community, it’s appropriate that in this case the Planning Board for Braintree take into consideration any impacts that would affect Quincy as well, because it is on the border,” said Town Council President Chuck Kokoros. “I think that you always want to be good neighbors.”

While a proposal hasn't been filed, Kokoros said it would be only right to let Quincy residents have a voice in the process, and to ensure they wouldn’t be hurt by the project.

“I certainly would sympathize with any councilor from any other community that borders us that is trying to protect their community. I don’t know what the actual proposal is, so I cant speak to that, but I think in a broad sense that I support the fact that whatever development goes in there is productive for both communities because of its location,” Kokoros said.

So far, that has happened, Kokoros said. Neighbors from Quincy and Braintree had ample opportunity to speak their mind when it came to the rezoning, and had a fair say in what was to occur.

The end result was not a disregard of their thoughts, but rather a move in a different direction, Kokoros said.

“We had to make a tough decision and in the end we made that decision, we have to stand by it, and hopefully we’ll have a good project that improves the area and have the cleanup done,” Kokoros said.

Although Palmucci said Quincy residents did have a voice in the rezone, and was optimistic about Braintree giving them a voice in a development proposal, he wasn't willing to bet on it.

"I'm not going to rely on optimism to protect the neighborhood that I represent, so I will continue to push forward with this legislation, or a different one to ensure Quincy residents have a voice how this particular parcel gets developed," Palmucci said.

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