A contentious proposal to build a Walmart Supercenter in Pittsfield was abruptly tabled at last night’s city council meeting.
The Pittsfield City Council adopted a new charter in 2013, and for the third time since it went into place, a City Council floor debate was halted and objected Tuesday night – and the issue was pushed off until another meeting.
It all started with a petition requesting that the Pittsfield City Council go on record supporting a $30 million Walmart Supercenter to be built at the William Stanley Business Park.
This is the third time in six years that the project developers, Waterstone Retail Development and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, have proposed a large-scale retailer for the site.
It was rumored last month that the project’s development team was ready to file the plans, but that hasn’t happened yet.
City Councilors say a few factors have slowed down the project’s official filing with the city. This time, the issue that halted the meeting was whether to ask Waterstone to move the proposed storefront closer to the road.
“You know, I do worry about the neighbors and we have a difference opinion of what neighbors might want to see on the other side of their street. I don't know if it’s people coming in and out of stores. Probably not a parking lot,” Councilor Melissa Mazzeo says.
Diane Marcella is with Tyler Street Business Group, which represents businesses near the proposed Walmart site. Marcella is against the plan.
“What may be considered best for the neighborhood is not necessarily what everyone sitted at the table thinks is best, or what a textbook might tell you, or what might have worked in another city or another town. Contrary to customer beliefs, what is best for neighborhood is determined by studying in that neighborhood.”
But moving the storefront to the corner would comply with the state’s Department of Transportation’s complete streets program.
Not mentioned at the City Council meeting was finding a replacement for PEDA’s Executive Director Cory Thurston, who announced last month that he will be stepping down in May. Thurston is the third person to lead the industrial development agency, and with no one to head the agency, then what?
Councilor Kevin Morandi, who represents the area around the business park, says these discussions are premature.
“We don’t have any plans yet. We don’t have an application yet from Walmart. We keep hearing one is coming and I am sure it is. To me, until one comes, and we start doing our homework and our research and going out and talking with our residents. I think, to me, this is a moot point.”
The proposal is part of Waterstone’s larger project, known as Woodland Crossing, on the former General Electric site. Waterstone wants to build manufacturing, medical offices, life science firms and retail – and more – in the business park.
The just more than 200,000-square foot store plan will require traffic and street improvements, but will not alter or expand any of the existing roadways. Any application will have to go through the city’s Economic Development Authority first.