By SCOTT JACKSON
Residents attended a community meeting March 4th to voice their displeasure with a proposed 75-unit residential development on Harriet Avenue, and urged city officials to consider buying the property or rezoning it to block the project from going forward.
Ward 3 Councillor Ian Cain said he would look into both ideas raised by residents.
Cain hosted an hour-long meeting inside the Montclair Elementary to review Boston Property Ventures’ proposal to build the 75 units at 0 Harriet Ave. More than 150 residents attended the standing-room-only meeting inside the school’s gymnasium.
At the end of the night, Robert Harnais, the attorney representing the Quincy-based developer, said his client would work with the neighborhood on plans for the site going forward.
“This is the very beginning. We know we have a long way to go,” Harnais said, reiterating comments he made at the start of the meeting.
“The plans you see won’t be the final plans.”
The parcel at 0 Harriet Ave. includes 133,300 square feet of land in a Business C zoning district. The site includes wetlands areas and is also located in a federally designated flood plain.
“It’s a nice parcel of land,” said Peter McLoughlin, the CEO of Boston Property Ventures. “It’s going to create a beautiful place for people to live, whether it be my parents who live in Quincy and are looking for a place to go when they downsize their house or some of these folks in the room who don’t want to maintain a house.
“It does provide a nice living environment with a bucolic setting.”
The plan for the site, as presented at the community meeting, called for the construction of a six-story, 65-unit residential building and 10 townhouse style units. The larger building would include seven studio units, 36 units with one bedroom and 22 two-bedroom units. Each townhouse would have three bedrooms.
The units inside the larger building would be apartments while the townhouses would be sold as condominiums, McLaughlin said, though that could change based on market conditions or feedback from area residents.
The developer said 10 percent of the units on site would be set aside for affordable housing to meet the city’s requirements.
The plan would include 81 parking spaces, located both under the main building and in a surface lot. The primary entrance to the site would be near the intersection of Harriet Avenue and Vershire Street with an emergency entrance from the State Street South complex. McLoughlin said the entrance from State Street South would be gated and used only for emergency access to prevent motorists from leaving Newport Avenue and cutting through the site and surrounding neighborhood to beat traffic.
“It seems like a double-edged sword to open it up through the State Street parking lot,” he said. “There are a lot of concerns that I have heard from a bunch of people about cut-through traffic coming off of Newport Avenue.”
Before he opened the meeting up for comments and questions, Cain said he understood residents were opposed to the project.
“When everyone heard about this project, I tried to collectively summarize your sentiments,” he said. “I said everyone was pissed about this project, so let’s fundamentally assume no one wants this project to move forward.”
Cain asked if any of the residents present for the meeting wanted to stand up and support the project, but no one did.
Susan Mulvey said she was concerned the site, which was home to a railway at one point, could be polluted. She was also concerned with traffic in the neighborhood.
“You said we were pissed. I don’t particularly like that word,” Mulvey said. “My word is wicked pissed.”
Beth Cardone said she was concerned development on the site, particularly on the wetlands there, would lead to flooding on her property.
“Any runoff you guys have is actually going to go right into my house and my basement,” Cardone said.
Karlis Skulte, the developer’s engineer, said the salt marsh on the northern part of the parcel and a second wetland area near a pond south of the site would both remain untouched. Two smaller depressions on the site would be impacted by the project, he said, mitigation for which would be determined during the city’s review of the proposal.
The project, Skulte added, would also include a stormwater control system to capture runoff and release it back into the wetlands.
“We would be managing the stormwater so we would be conveying it back to where it naturally goes today, which is to the wetlands,” he said. “It has to be designed a very specific way so that we don’t impact the existing drainage patterns in the neighborhood.”
Kerry Snyder, the advocacy director for the Neponset River Watershed Association, said the group was wary of the impact of the project on wetlands.
“We’re very concerned about all of the resources in the area, especially given climate change,” she said, adding some predictions have the site underwater in 30 years as sea levels rise.
James Coughlin, the president of the Montclair Wollaston Neighborhood Association, said the organization was circulating a petition calling on Quincy officials to acquire the property to stop it from being developed. The neighborhood group also plans to apply for Community Preservation Committee funding to do so, he said.
“I don’t agree with it,” Coughlin said of the proposal. “There is no reason for this to be built here.”
Cain called Coughlin’s idea a wonderful proposal and noted the City Council recently approved a resolution asking Mayor Thomas Koch to consider acquiring the Beachcomber site on Quincy Shore Drive.
Several residents also questioned why the site is zoned Business C, which allows for construction of multi-family residences, when the neighborhood to the south is zoned Residence A, where only single-family homes can be constructed by right.
Cain, at the conclusion of the meeting, said he would look into rezoning the land or acquiring it.
“I know my homework assignments – there is no mistake about that,” he said.
“I know what the message is here and I know what we’re going to look forward to doing, which is taking a look into zoning changes as well as proposing we take a look at acquiring this parcel so this project can’t move forward.”