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Re-Zoning Proposal for Independence Ave Development Moves Forward

Braintree councilors recommended favorable action on the measure that could lead to a mixed-use development at 7-11 Independence Ave.

A subcommittee recommended favorable action this week on a proposal to re-zone 7-11 Independence Ave. to make way for the sale of the property to a developer.

The positive vote came after several delays by the Committee on Ordinance & Rules, which over concerns about taxes, environmental problems and who owns a key private way bordering Braintree and Quincy.

Scott Palmer inherited the property after his father Robert passed away in 2001 and has been negotiating with developer Thomas Fitzgerald, who plans to build a combination residential and commercial space on the currently unused property, Palmer's attorney John Garland said.

Palmer's father had hosted several businesses at the location over the years, including a gas station, vehicle repair center and moving company, though it has essentially been abandoned since 1985, Palmer said.

"I sort of inherited his ongoing problems," he said. "It has been a slow demise."

Those problems include environmental blight – Garland said the Department of Environmental Protection had been working with a cleanup company on the property until recently when funds ran out – and also a significant amount of owed property taxes.

On the Braintree side, Palmer owes the town more than $158,000, according to a check Garland said he made with the Assistant Treasurer Collector as of July 31, 2012. Palmer is also on the hook in Quincy for about a half a million dollars, according to city records, and a recent attempt by officials there to auction the Quincy part of the property failed, likely because of the sizeable amount owed.

Committee members Sean Powers, John Mullaney and Paul "Dan" Clifford recommended on Tuesday night that the full council approve a zoning change from Residential B to General Business. Garland said that would enable Fitzgerald to make a deal with Palmer to pay the back taxes and then move forward with a development plan.

Any proposal would need the approval of town officials, including an extensive review by the Planning Board. Conditions would likely include environmental remediation efforts, Garland said, and Green Environmental, Inc. of Norwell has been hired to assess the property.

"This is really the beginning of the beginning of the beginning," he said.

Garland also told councilors that he found out the private way that would be used during construction is half-owned by Palmer and half-owned by abutting property owners. It would be accessible during construction, he added.

A draft proposal for the development presented earlier this year in Quincy that called for a 44-unit condominium complex with four commercial spaces at the ground level drew protests from neighbors, who said it was too large for the area. Afterward, Palmer withdrew that proposal, and Garland said there is no concrete plan currently on the table. 

Residents have shown up at several meetings on the subject over the past few months to voice their concerns about a potential development, and in particular traffic and parking issues, but none appeared on Tuesday.

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