Braintree and Quincy residents convinced town officials on Monday night to hold off on a decision about re-zoning property on Independence Avenue that has been plagued by overdue taxes and environmental blight.
Several neighbors of the property at 7-11 Independence Ave. in North Braintree urged a subcommittee not to vote on the application from resident Scott Palmer, citing concerns about the density of future development and how that could affect traffic patterns, parking, the safety of children and elderly in the area and ongoing pollution problems.
Palmer received a favorable vote from the Planning Board last month to re-zone from Residential B to General Business portions of two lots, one of which is partially in Quincy.
But on Monday, the Committee on Ordinance & Rules voted 3-0, with chair Ronald DeNapoli absent, to recommend that the full council table the request until the property's tax bill can be addressed. The Town Council meets tonight at 7:30 p.m. and is able to make a decision regardless of the subcommittee's vote.
"I have an awful lot of questions I'd like to have answered before I can make a decision," Councilor-at-Large Leland Dingee said.
Foremost among them is the question of how much exactly Palmer owes to Braintree and Quincy in property taxes and if those can be paid prior to the council approving the re-zoning.
Palmer is on the hook in Quincy for at least $460,000 for the portion of land he owns there at 245 Independence Ave., and faces a tax title auction later this month, his attorney John Garland said, referencing a notice from the city.
Braintree residents at the meeting on Monday said the Quincy bill was actually almost $550,000, citing a listing in the Patriot Ledger and a check by another neighbor of the tax rolls. Official confirmation of the amount could not be made Monday night.
UPDATE: In Braintree, Garland said his client owes $121,000, based on a check of the treasurer/collector on Tuesday.
Councilors said they would work to reconcile the numbers and have the Braintree assessor send Palmer an updated notice. Palmer attended the meeting Monday night but did not speak.
In response to a question from District 6 Councilor Paul "Dan" Clifford, who made the motion to table based on the tax issue, Garland said that he predicts if the re-zoning were approved, the site's potential developer would take care of the unpaid taxes.
"If Mr. Palmer had the resources to pay the bill, he'd pay the bill," Garland said.
Palmer inherited the parcels at 7-11 Independence Ave. from his father Robert, who had hosted several businesses at the location over the years, Garland said, including a gas station, vehicle repair center and moving company.
Today there is a single-family home on one, 8,742-square-foot parcel that is listed as Palmer's current address, and a larger 19,158-square-foot lot partially in Quincy that contains a large, decaying wooden building. The property "has been in dire shape for a long time," Garland said.
There was consensus among the residents in attendance that the property should be developed and the environmental problems – including a past gas spill – addressed, but they were also dismayed by a proposal by Palmer in January that called for a 44-unit condominium complex with four commercial spaces at the ground level.
Garland said on Monday that the original proposal is no longer on the table. He also stressed that any future development is dependent on the re-zoning and then on review and approvals by the planning and zoning boards in both Braintree and Quincy.
"....we do want development there. It's an eyesore," said Patrick Barry, a Quincy neighbor. "If we can all cooperate and agree on something together, the fight's over."