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Town Meetings Says "No" to Target Proposal

The zoning change for the proposed Target/Canyon Site project was denied by Town Meeting last night.

After months of public consideration among the different town boards that deal with development, the was before Town Meeting last night and the majority of members voted to deny the project. 

Members voted 39 in favor and 72 against the warrant article that called for a zoning change at the site off of Wheeler Road near the Middlesex Turnpike. The zoning change required a 2/3 majority but the article failed without even 50 percent of the Town Meeting votes.

The background on the project is that in the fall of 2010 the Gutierrez Company entered an agreement to potentially purchase the 15.3 acre piece of state-owned land that located adjacent to Wheeler Road and near the Middlesex Turnpike from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, often referred to as the 'Canyon Site.'

Gutierrez determined the piece of land would be ideal for a retail location and eventually began discussions with Target. The plan called for a Target store, owned by the retailer, and an adjacent restaurant location Gutierrez planned to lease to a restaurant group.

There was quite a bit of discussion on the project at last night's Town Meeting; the entire session was devoted to this one question. The meeting began with the boards weighing in with their recommendations. The Planning Board voted 4-3, before the , Jack Kelly and Barbara L'Heureux, a point that brought up during the general discussion as an argument against the project. The argument there is that Kelly and L'Heureux were vocally opposed to the project during the campaign and they both beat out Neil Kane, a proponent, and opponents said their election was a referendum by the voters on the proposal.

The Land Use Committee was unanimously against the project and the Board of Selectmen decided not to weigh in.

Following the board Scott Weiss, project manager for The Gutierrez Company, gave a presentation on the project and accompanying traffic mitigation project. Weiss was followed by a presentation by Ari Berman, an engineer and member of a Lexington-based group in opposition to the project (the site is adjacent to a residential section of Lexington) gave a oppositional view which questioned the traffic mitigation claims made by Gutierrez.

Town Meeting members then had a chance to express their opinions. For a couple of hours members took to the microphone to put forward their opinions with the other members. Most of this discussion revolved around the traffic plan, whether a Target would bring in more traffic than the mitigation plan would alleviate and how traffic would be impacted in the area in general.

In the end Town Meeting decided against the zoning change.

After the meeting Weiss said he was disappointed with the decision.

"Obviously we are disappointed with the outcome, we feel that we were offering a tremendous package of roadway improvements, tax benefits for the town and environmental clean-up," he said. "We are surprised but understand that the Town Meeting members didn't agree." 

When asked if Gutierrez had any future plans in regards to the parcel, Weiss hinted the company will keep options open.

"It's a bit too early to tell," he said. "We have to go back and regroup and reevaluate our options."

Berman said he was happy with how things turned out.

"I hope we find a better use for the land and I'm confident we will," he said.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

erik ellis May 22, 2012 at 11:50 AM
Im glad to see the Town realizes,. that the Open Spaces are scarce . lets keep whats left. places like Everett, Revere, Somerville , Cambridge, DIdnt place a long time ago, and have no open space, just all buildings, we dont want that here !!!
J Marie May 22, 2012 at 12:10 PM
Thank you Town Meeting for voting No!
TOM KILLILEA May 22, 2012 at 12:22 PM
10 years ago I listened at town meeting to members complain about the traffic on Middlesex Turnpike. In my opinion, last night we missed an opportunity to help resolve the issue. We heard from numerous businesses in that area who supported the proposal, including the owners of Middlesex Commons who would be direct competitors to the businesses locating there. We received a personal guarantee from Mr. Gutierrez that the traffic issue would be properly adressed. I feel that town meeting will be having the same conversation about this section of time 5 to 10 years from now. TMM designated Middlesex Turnpike as a commercial development site back when we ok'd the PDD for the Northwest Park parcel to get the state to assist with business tax breaks & road improvement funding for the area. We do have a responsibility to live up to our end of the bargain, this is not to say that we must accept any proposal brought to us. I don't think this area will be kept for open space as the state is actively looking to sell it.
Mollie Rock May 22, 2012 at 12:42 PM
I agree completely, we have to stop building in every available patch of land. I was driving down Blanchard Road a week ago and saw a big beautiful deer standing on a huge pile of dirt where the woods used to be, it broke my heart.
Burlington Resident May 22, 2012 at 01:49 PM
We have been complaining about the traffic down there for years and nothing has been done about it. Gutierrez came in with a proposal and both sides made compelling arguments why they were for and against this. So now what do we do? With all this attention I hope this opened some eyes with town officials and they start looking at what can be done to help with the traffic. The only way to keep this as open space is to buy the property. If the town has money to do this, that money should go to fixing the traffic down there before we buy this land.
J. Parker May 22, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Mr. Killilea, you voted FOR a PDD on land behind our houses on Muller Rd., that would have destroyed our properties. Who do you answer to? Is it your constituents that voted you onto Town Meeting, or is it for developers? I watched this whole meeting and I never saw more than ONE of the business owners get up before the members to express their feelings. So what if Town Meeting will having the this same conversation 5 to 10 years from now? You people sitting there for so many years caused all of this crowded situation over here in a neighborhood that is now trapped on both sides ! Where do you live? As long as that land stays RO, the state will just have to sell it to someone that is willing to put housing there, or give it back to Burlington, where it belongs.
J. Parker May 22, 2012 at 08:27 PM
Well, Burlington Resident, complaining just doesn't work in this town ! Gutierrez is not looking out for us. He moved out of Burlington to live in Weston !!! Can any one of us afford to move to Weston after he inundates us all with his businesses that are choking us to death?! Wake up ! What we need do is keep the land as RO (residential only) . Many people in this town voted for the administration that is now in charge of the state, so write to your representative.
Anon May 22, 2012 at 10:11 PM
Judith - A couple of points: 1. Would you want to move into the area of the Canyon Land? No? What housing then? 40B? 2. Why would the state ever give "back" land to Burlington, when they had to compensate the original owners? Are you proposing that the Town should buy the land from the state? Or are you looking towards the rest of the Commonwealth giving up their property rights for you? 3. You are complaining about the current traffic. So who will now pay for the Middlesex Tpke. update? With LESS industry, and NO help from the state, it will either stay the way it is, or taxes will go up. Is this a project to transform Burlington more into something like Weston? High taxes, little industry? In a number of ways, the naysayers have seriously harmed the interests of folks south of 128. Anonymous Coward
B Springer May 23, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Anon - There is no risk of 40B housing going in the Canyon property because Burlington's housing stock is over the 10% requirement. That is just a scare tactic floated around by proponents of this project. The fact is that the $3 million traffic plan put forth by Guttierez make sense - until you add 1200 additional cars per hour (and that was not during the holiday season). The Town should make those improvements either alone or with help from the state. It would not require a tax increase. We recently allocated $9 million for a new force water main and did not increase taxes. You can't believe all the propaganda out there. Common sense prevailed at Town Meeting. We all need to use more of that in these situations. In addition there are Lexington residents along North Road who have documentation proving that the State compensated residents $1 per 1/2 acre of land taken. That was not fair market value. It is shameful that those individuals were forced to give up their land for the common good and now the State is seeking to make a profit off of their sacrifice.
Mike May 23, 2012 at 12:20 PM
There is already a Super Target next door in Woburn.... Come on people, do we really need one in Burlington as well? Are we that lazy that we can't drive a few miles to the town next door?
Burlington Resident May 23, 2012 at 12:45 PM
"State compensated residents $1 per 1/2 acre of land taken". This is false. The $1 paid to the landowners was to start the Eminent Domain process, then residents were paid fair market value for their land after a settlement agreement with the State.
B Springer May 23, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Burlinton resident - do you have proof of these claims? I was told the same thing but when I searched for documention could find nothing. I enlisted the aid of an archivist who also could find nothing. Th eonly documentation I could find was the $1 for 1/2 acre.
Burlington Resident May 23, 2012 at 06:54 PM
I'm sure the Lexington residents showed you everything, even the settlement that they received for the land. They are only showing you want they want you to see.
Robert Fahey May 23, 2012 at 08:37 PM
And so what do we want there? Let me guess. More condos.
J. Parker May 23, 2012 at 08:51 PM
LOL, it's alway nice talking to a 'stranger' ? In answer to your questions: 1. Who said anyone has to move there? It's nice just the way it is. On the other hand, look at the other housing development on Wayside Rd. It's next to the highway and under high tension wires ! And, it's fully occupied !! Personally, I'd rather be located on the Canyon site, but that's neither here nor there. 2. As I understand it, the state took the land from Burlington by eminent domain. The amount they paid the property owners was only for a part of it. What happened about the rest? Was Burlington paid? 3. Our taxes have gone up regardless, and I see no reason why not having a business that will create more traffic helping with that one bit , considering all that is yet to come. The state is giving the land to Gutierrez, right? In other words, Gutierrez paid a million + to the state and the state is giving it back to Burlington to fix the highway, with conditions. No one is happy about the "conditions". So, why not just give the land back to Burlington? I do not understand your question about the Commonwealth giving up their property rights for ME?! The Commonwealth seems to have enough of other peoples money to help other communitees......? Who is paying for all those huge fences along the highways to block out noise ? We, on the south of 128, have already been seriously harmed. No need for threats. Peace.
J. Parker May 23, 2012 at 09:06 PM
Mr. Fahey, RO is single family only. Condos are not allowed.
Brady May 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM
The land is in Burlington. Lexington residents did not receive settlements. The land was taken in the late 50's.
Brady May 23, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Mr. K's daughter works for Reimer and Braunstein.
TOM KILLILEA May 24, 2012 at 03:34 PM
YOUR POINT BEING?
Robert Fahey May 25, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Good. So what are the other possibilities? It's not desirable "open space." Another office building?
TOM KILLILEA May 27, 2012 at 10:30 PM
still waiting for a response to your statement, what is the implication?

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