The land at 7-11 Independence Ave., situated on the Braintree/Quincy town line, has sat dormant for years, old vehicles scarring the landscape, a decaying warehouse telling of the soil contamination underfoot from a long-gone gas station.
Yet local officials and the property owner now are hopeful that all that will be solved as a proposal for a 36-unit condominium building makes its way through Braintree’s permitting process.
“I am optimistic,” said landowner Scott Palmer, who took over responsibility for the site after his father’s death in 2001. “I think eventually that the project will move forward. It’s a matter of just the town and the developer coming to a decisive action.”
Before the project can move forward, however, it will need a slew of approvals in Braintree, and possibly Quincy. And questions remain about how large the development should be, despite the benefits promised to the neighborhood.
The project has been officially proposed in Braintree by developer Tom Fitzgerald, who would purchase the property from Palmer once the approvals are in hand.
Fitzgerald declined to comment for this article, but the most recent proposal calls for three floors of condominiums, a fourth-story penthouse, and an underground garage.
The property in question straddles the town line, but the building will sit entirely on the 26,799 square feet on the Braintree side, a parcel recently rezoned by the Town Council to allow condos.
The property’s current blight, coupled with about $100,000 in back taxes owed on the lot, were among the main reasons Braintree councilors approved the rezoning. And though officials have anticipated some type of large-scale residential development since the get-go, some have doubts about the proposal under consideration.
“There’s a pretty significant difference in what is allowed [by zoning laws] and what is being asked for,” said Town Councilor Chuck Kokoros.
The developer is asking the Zoning Board of Appeals to approve a development that would be taller, denser, and larger than zoning laws permit on a lot this size.
“I personally would think that there has to be some adjustments made to make it closer to compliance in order to make it a better development, and hopefully they will be able to do it,” Kokoros said.
But he added that the town should keep an open mind about bending the rules, mainly because of the desire to see the site developed.
The project also is being scrutinized in Quincy, where City Councilor Brian Palmucci, whose ward abuts the property, agreed that finding a development of the right size is a balancing act.
“You have 99.9 percent agreement that something needs to be built there. The only issue is how dense and what in fact will be built there. . . . ” Palmucci said. “I know developers need to make money, but residents want a project that fits the neighborhood and makes sense for that area, and I hope that’s what we can ultimately reach — a consensus.”
The project has not been proposed through any Quincy channels, but Palmucci said the developer has participated in Quincy community meetings. Palmucci also said he has received assurances that Quincy will play a part in the approval process.
That may only add to the timeline. In Braintree alone, if the developer can obtain exceptions to Zoning Board rules – which require Planning Board input and Zoning Board approval – the development would have to go back to the Planning Board for a more in-depth analysis.
Still, Palmer hopes approvals can happen quickly and that something will rise that would have made his father proud.
“For me, it’s really about seeing the land revitalized and beautified,” he said, recalling the days when the doors to the now dilapidated barn were bright and working, when the gas station served trucks for his father’s moving company, and when hundreds of people bustled about the property in his father’s employ.
“For the town of Braintree, obviously [I want the land improved], but also for my father’s legacy.
“It’s sad how it ended up, and my dad was caught up in 1990 in the recession . . . but it’s still something I’m committed to, to see this corporation and my father’s field come to a good close.”
Jessica Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.