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LETTER: Waltham Is Business Friendly

The following is a letter to the editor.

The following is from City Councilor Robert Logan.

Let me first address the more general issue of new businesses coming into the City of Waltham. Waltham is one of the most pro-business cities in the state. We have a commercial base that is the envy of the Commonwealth, and is headquarters for a number of large corporations. When Dassault Systèmes opened its North American Headquarters on Wyman Street last year it brought over 800 high-tech jobs to Waltham. Waltham has more Class A office space than any other community on Route 128, and more hotel rooms than any other city in Massachusetts outside of Boston and Cambridge. Waltham is attracting plenty of businesses with well paying jobs. In fact, according the U.S. Census there are 6,221 firms located in Waltham.

Nonetheless, some people seem to laboring under the misperception that Waltham is not business friendly. This is apparently the result of a few high profile cases involving requests for fast food special permits. Keep in mind that Waltham is not exactly suffering from a paucity of fast food options, so Waltham is no more anti fast food than it is anti business. However, because of the nature of such operations, which typically create more traffic, higher parking demand, and more noise and litter than other business uses, fast food is more highly regulated and requires a special permit. Each petition for a fast food special permit is given a fair hearing and decided on its individual merits based on the facts of each unique situation. Most fast food special permits are granted, but some are not.

The proposed development on the corner of It did not have nearly enough parking for all of the businesses being planned. The entire proposal was a gross overreach by the developer, and the City Council would have been recklessly irresponsible to have approved it. The proposed “Wings Over Waltham” at 110 Lexington Street had an even bigger parking problem. Although it was proposed to be primarily a delivery operation it also included take-out, which required parking spaces, and the plans submitted also showed seating for eat-in. After tallying the spaces needed for take-out and eat-in customers, the developer had to admit that he did not have any parking left on site for employees. They just did not have enough parking.

Which brings us to Boloco. First, it is important to note that most of the “delay” in this proposal was due to the fact that the first attorney they hired dropped the ball and, for over a year, never filed most of the paperwork to even start the process. As a result, this matter never even came before the City Council until just this past August. Once it came to us the biggest issue was, again, parking. The Duffy property, which already houses Bertucci’s and two other restaurants, has a parking shortage already even though part of the building is vacant. Boloco would have taken up some of that vacant space, but would have exacerbated an already critical parking deficiency there. The Ordinances & Rules Committee was willing to work with Boloco and Duffy, by counting the parking on the City owned access road toward the total requirement. However, we needed assurances from Duffy that no other restaurants would go into any of the remaining vacant spaces. Given the high parking demand generated by restaurant uses, the existing shortage on site, and our willingness to bend and count the public spaces, this was not an unreasonable demand. However, Duffy would not agree to this and Boloco was forced to withdraw.

I understand that people get all excited when they hear that their favorite eatery may be coming to town, and I am disappointed that the Boloco proposal did not work out. I was the one who proposed that the public parking be counted and was planning to vote in favor of the proposed decision, with the restriction on additional restaurant space included. It looked like we had an agreement. The attorney for the petitioners included the restriction in the final draft of the decision. Then the property owner balked. So, you see, there is a lot more to all of this than most people know. Waltham is very business friendly, but there is a difference between hanging out the welcome sign and being a doormat.

Robert G. Logan

Councillor Ward 9

Member, Rules & Ordinances Committee

Prospect301 November 27, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Thanks for writing this Councilor Logan, I wish others in the city hall would take a cue from your online presence. While I understand the situation the city finds itself in when granting these fast food permits, I am increasingly frustrated to hear that parking is always one of the main barriers in the permitting process. You would think that with parking being such a reoccurring and burdensome issue, the city would be taking measures to rethink the problem and address it, rather than continuously using it as an excuse to delay or deny permits. I know Waltham isn’t Cambridge or Boston, and is generally more car-centric due to its proximity to Route 128, but what is city hall doing to creatively address the parking problem? Maybe it’s time to rethink minimum parking requirements? Put in some actual bike lanes? Better sidewalks? Rezoning?
TheHam November 27, 2012 at 02:38 PM
You really think our tax dollars are going toward fixing our parking problems? Issue #1. There are more residents of this state off the books than on the books (as in illegally in this country/state). Anyone with common sense can see that if you account for 30 spaces, but have an extra 15 people hiding from our immigration laws, we now have parking issues. The fraud and rampant abuse in this state needs to be weeded out first, which will never happen. Enjoy the streets and parking you have now, we're in for some serious issues in our immediate future.
Ryan Grannan-Doll (Editor) November 27, 2012 at 02:42 PM
TheHam, We appreciate you taking the time to make comments on Waltham Patch. But, it would be great if you could not boil every issue down to illegal immigration. There are so many other issues ripe for commenting. Cheers. -Ryan
Luckydog November 27, 2012 at 02:48 PM
I think the city might think it is business friendly but when we keep seeing these companies pulling out of planned developments because of red tape issues it seems otherwise. We continually block progress in this town. No drive throughs....not enough parking... too many restaurants in one development... these are excuses to prevent new businessthat will compete with existing business. We seem to have a bias against certian businesses in this town. What has happened with Panera, Five Guys, Starbucks and Chipolte? It seems that Jake and Joes is approved with no problems and going into the former Polaroid site development....any coincidence it is a locally owned comany?? If we were truly "Business Friendly" city hall would create a position that would be responsible for "New Busienss Development" to ensure that these roadblocks don't continually happen.
theclefe November 27, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Mr. Logan, Add to that list the problems with Wendy's, Panera Bread and AT&T. Then you have Five Guys. “I have never had a situation where we have had such bureaucratic logjam,” said Magerman, who started the process in February. “The process in Waltham is to the point where I can’t even circle a month where I think we will be open for business." (wicked local Waltham) This is all in the last year or so. It's a shame that you get all the heat for being the most vocal and visible, but there has been a problem that needs to be addressed.
Jen P November 27, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Commenters, do you think people will just apparate in front of businesses? No, they will drive. More cars on the road and parking at establishments means potential public safety issues and thus the review by the City. Five Guys also delayed in actually applying for their permit.
Eagles November 27, 2012 at 03:21 PM
Business friendly - yes, fast food friendly - no. Their are several restaurants without an ounce of parking, a dunkin on main street you can't get through because of people turning in, a bk on moody with only 10 spots, yet any "special permit" requires lawyers, excessive documentation, and delayed and postponed hearings. If they were truly business friendly, they should fast track the entire poloroid development, be up front with developers such as thr Lexington and trapello project, and say it isn't going to happen or come to agreements what needs to happen. In every case it seems they delay till the franchise or establishments folds. You can't be business friendly, just by saying you are.
theclefe November 27, 2012 at 03:40 PM
@ Jen P. I think traffic and parking is an important concern, and I agree with some of the moves made by the city council, but there is clearly a pattern. You can't compare the Trapello Starbucks development to the Five Guys and Panera Main Street situation. Mr. Logan is right about the former. Five business on a postage stamp is not appropriate, but the size and accessibility of the Main Street marketplace is a far different situation. The problem is, both projects get lumped into the same category because the city council bogs all of these permits down. We are a city in a heavily populated metro area. Traffic and parking issues are to be expected. Let Bolocco compete for business. Let Wings compete for business. Don't impose idiotic restrictions on Wendy's. Then when you turn down something like Trapello, it's not just another example of the city deterring business.
Steven Cavaretta November 27, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Good letter explain what happened and why. Wonder why they dont do this more often.
Simon November 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
This is absolutely right. Wings over Waltham would have gone in right by the train station and by the bus stop for half a dozen lines - in walking distance for anyone who lives downtown. Parking shouldn't have stopped them from opening.
Jahmmy November 27, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Despite the letter, I am still concerned that EVERY project is getting denied because of traffic. http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/waltham/2012/11/waltham_city_councilors_worry.html
Jen P November 27, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Simon, WOW was suggested to go in on Lexington St just north of School St., not the Mimi's Roast Beef location. As it was an old garage and presumably dirty, I'm not sure a place that makes food was the best fit there.
Cairo kid November 27, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Waltham city council is still catering to the ole farts of Waltham, and I'm sorry, Ryan...ILLEGALS are a Constant, MAIN problem in Waltham, affecting everything, even fast food statistics!....and they do NOT pay property taxes!
Cairo kid November 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM
PS The restrictions on Wendy's, Main st is a good example...one councilman saying: "Waltham is not Las Vegas!"... God forbid u want a burger and fries after 1AM!
Prospect301 November 28, 2012 at 01:38 AM
Unfathomable as it may seem, the WOW location would have been less than half a mile from the train stop and about a block from all the bus routes on Route 20, so Simon is correct in saying there were plenty of alternative means of transportation near by. Also, yes, old garage is dirty, but that's why spaces are renovated. I'm sure the Watch Factory wasn't a beacon of cleanliness before it was turned into apartments; however, now people live there and restaurants are [hopefully] going in as well.
Walthamite November 28, 2012 at 03:19 AM
So what businesses are coming to the Trapelo & Lexington intersection?
sangwich November 28, 2012 at 03:25 PM
As a newcomer to Waltham, I'm pretty excited to see this. I like seeing new businesses open up, but I think the intersections along Lexington street are completely ridiculous and need help. The concept of putting five businesses on that tiny corner next to Shaw's is a joke, and thank you for denying it. There's already a BofA there, and getting in and out of the Shaw's plaza is nearly impossible. I'd love to have an option for coffee that isn't one of the three DuDos within two miles from each other, but cramming them in that area isn't the right option. I'm glad to see our Councillors trying to manage Waltham's growth in a way that actually benefits its citizens, and not just its bottom line.
Jen P November 28, 2012 at 04:39 PM
I agree that the proposed WOW location was walkable and near public transportation, but I disagree with the "right by" language. The Watch factory had fewer carcinogens to clean up than an old gas station, imho. The question is whether WOW wants to pursue another, more workable site.
Jen P November 28, 2012 at 04:41 PM
My question is whether the Council will be business friendly to a potential medical marijuana distribution center in Waltham considering the passage of Question 3 earlier this month? If so, where? Will there be a "district" a la adult zone?
Ace November 28, 2012 at 07:32 PM
As a North Waltham resident, I'd love more options than those offered by the burger chains and Panera. I hope the asian place at Trapelo and Lexington actually happens. If it's competitive, it will save lots of trips into Lexington Center.
theclefe November 28, 2012 at 10:10 PM
This will be an excellent test. As I understand it, the number of licenses intially being handed out will be limited. Waltham will be an attractive area for a potential dispensary given it's location in the region, so it's safe to assume this will come up. How the city council frames the zoning and ordinance rules regarding this over the next few years will have a profound effect on future discussions. Marijuana is fully legalized in two states. It's safe to assume that pattern will continue across the country. At least in the more liberal states. It's a growing industry, a safe industry, and one that should be welcomed in Waltham with open arms. Being business friendly means welcoming and encouraging new opportunities. Especially ones that can bring a lot of financial benefits to the community. I'd expect and hope a potential dispensary be treated no differently than any other pharmacy in town, and we not go the route Peabody and others went.
Warren Dale November 28, 2012 at 10:47 PM
The loop hole that needs to be fixed is how Moe's Southwestern Grill on Main St side stepped the fast food permitting process by acquiring a "Beer & Wine" license.
Warren Dale November 28, 2012 at 10:59 PM
@ Luckydog, Herein lies the problem with our permitting process, "Restaurants" that have more than 50 seats and serve alcohol, do not need any type of "permit" other than to be located in a properly zoned location(Jake & Joe's is a restaurant)....Now if you dont have 50 seats, and you dont serve alcohol, you get to go through the Fast Food permit process. ( Moe's southwestern grill, acquired a beer & wine license just to avoid the fast food permit process )
theclefe November 28, 2012 at 11:08 PM
@Warren Dale. That's treating the symptom. There is no reason to be finding ways to close more doors for business owners. The process should be flipped, allowing smaller shops to open easily and the larger places serving alcohol sure require more scrutiny. Instead, these folks go through added expense to avoid the overbearing permit process. I have no problem "fixing" this loophole, if the larger problem of an onerous permitting process is resolved first.
Warren Dale November 29, 2012 at 12:04 AM
@ theclefe, I agree with you 100% !
Luckydog November 29, 2012 at 09:03 PM
Good post! I agree. You can't be business friendly just by saying you are!
Bill O November 30, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Cairo kid, please inform us how illegals don't pay property taxes?
suecalish December 03, 2012 at 11:10 AM
waltham.rocks...Parking.a.key.issue...Med.bldg.on.Main.St/next.2.Wendy's.can.be.an.open.park.lot...Need.2.clean.up.main/moody.sts.,/litter.plantings,lighting...tx.u.
Matthew Kiernan December 04, 2012 at 11:41 AM
I just read in the Sunday globe that children's hospital wants to expand, but, lo and behold, there is a comment from coucilor Logan about traffic concerns. Here we have a top notch high tech hospital, of which my children have been treated, that would like to take down delapitated buildings and put up new high tech ones and the only reason that is given to be concerned about this is traffic on highland and south sts. Really, wake up citizens, our elected officials are making excuses and reasons why they personally don't want something. It is not all of them, but there are some councillors that like to grandstand more than others. Just do you job and vote the way the people who elected you want you to vote. WE elect YOU for a reason, please listen to your constituents!
WHSHawk December 05, 2012 at 03:03 PM
So Waltham has been very corporate friendly which is very different than being friendly towards business that serve the local community. I understand the issue with putting ~5 businesses into what used to be a gas station and Lex and Trapelo. But what was the problem with BOLOCO on Winter street? Aren't there already two other restaurants there (Bertucci's and the Chinese restaurant?) In that area I see a lot of people coming down from 2nd ave to grab lunch quickly and get back to work. If there's no parking left, then the businesses lose when people are forced to go other places. And on Wings Over - I've never seen a crown sitting in a Wings Over location. They're almost exclusively takeout and delivery from my experience. What if they made an agreement to share some parking with the Dunkin Donuts/Autozone next store? I guess that would be on the owners to take initiative, but would the council have considered it if the owners came with an agreement for sharing parking? What about all the places on Moody that don't have parking?

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