City hears objections to B Street Northeast project

Rob Sole speaks to Quincy City Council members and city department leaders about B Street NE on Aug. 2.

The B Street NE construction project overshadowed the Aug. 4 meeting of the Quincy City Council, with four individuals speaking against it, primarily concerned about how narrow the street is becoming at its eastern end.

The project was not in the agenda but was brought up in the public comment period.

Mayor Paul Worley was absent, as were council member Josey Ferguson, City Attorney Danielle Marchant, and City Engineer Ariel Belino. Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Tom Harris led the meeting.

Rob Sole stood and said he owns property along B Street Northeast and said what is happening there affects him because he has property there, a business called Blue Skies Storage at 510 B St. NE. Sole also own Chet’s Honda Polaris in Quincy.

Since he noticed the project, Sole said he has been asking City Administrator Pat Haley for information, asking also if he had missed the public notification of the project.

Sole said he and other owners of commercial property at the eastern end of the street had not been notified.

He said SCJ Alliance did the consulting on the project and was supposed to inform people on the street about the upcoming project at a block party. The firm put up door hangers, he had heard, but that doesn’t help business owners who don’t have doors there.

“We all know the very eastern part of B Street is not residential, it is more commercial,” Sole said. “If I had known about it and looked into what the plan was for B Street, I certainly would have been there, because I’d have lots of objections as to the way it’s being built.”

The city zoning map online shows the furthest east blocks along B Street Northeast are indeed zoned City Light Industrial.

Most of the businesses were not notified, he said, leaving them out of the loop.

“We had no opportunity to comment on what was being done with B Street,” he said.

He saw the street taken from being wide, without curbs or gutters, to suddenly narrowed to 20 feet between new curbs in front of his business.

He said he made his concerns known, and the city was responsive. It went out and cut the new curbs back five feet on each side of the driveway to his gate to ease egress for long vehicles.

The city’s code, Sole said, says every street is to have 45 feet of asphalt width, and anything other than that requires council approval.

He said Haley told him there was no such variance taken before the council.

“I’m requesting the council look at this … and figure out a way to fix this,” Sole said, “because it’s a problem for me.”

Responding to Sole, Municipal Services Director Carl Worley spoke about the notification process, saying it was done just as Sole described.

“We don’t always have an opportunity to get to everybody … . We need to do better,” Worley said.

Sole suggested the city do registered mailings to each property owner affected.

Worley said the city began a process to re-do its design standards some time ago, then the pandemic hit. He said that was why the variance wasn’t done.

“That was bad on us for not doing the variance process,” he said.

The idea behind narrowing the road was to discourage trucks from using it. Worley said B Street is not a truck route.

Sole repeated that it is a commercial zone on that end of the street.

Worley said he wants to meet with Sole and “hopefully make it work the best we can.”

Two other residents stood and spoke about the narrowness of the road and their concerns about being able to turn long vehicles and how two emergency vehicles might not be able to pass each other on the new, narrow street.

Council member Dave Dormier then also spoke about the project design, but first he walked to the microphone used for public comment to speak as a member of the public.

He said it is important to follow the city code; the 45 feet curb to curb is the city code minimum; and there is no variance process to make a road narrower.

“This street per code is not even close,” he said.

The street at 20 feet is minimal even for fire access, he said.

He said he spoke to city staff about ideas of what to change.

“It is a very narrow road. I would recommend that council look at it and maybe direct or have the mayor direct staff to go back at this time and remove one side of the curb … to widen the street,” he said.

With no further public comments, Harris asked Worley about the effect of changing the width of the road now. Worley did not speculate at the cost of changing the design, but said an engineer can look at it, and another option would be to bring a variance now to the council.

The council decided to put the matter in front of the city’s Public Works committee.

At the end of the meeting, Harris thanked first responders for putting on a nice National Night Out event.

“It was really nice to see that in our community,” Harris said.

Likewise, other council members and department heads said they were glad to see National Night Out and its block parties return.

After the meeting, when asked what the city’s response on B Street NE would be, Haley wrote in an email Aug. 4 that construction continues, “however, we will immediately attempt to resolve the issues with access into the RV storage facility that will be done by enlarging the entrance/driveway. If we can do this to the satisfaction of the property owner, then the committee can review options for any additional modifications to the width of the road if needed. Since the Public Works committee to review these options meets after the deadline for agenda items on the August 16 City meeting, the council will have to review those proposals on the September 6th agenda.”

Sole emailed the Post-Register Aug. 8 saying the city had not yet presented any ideas for how to resolve the matter. He wrote: “I am satisfied that the city leaders are willing to seek out a solution. What that will look like is unclear at this point.”

On Aug. 15, he replied with an update, saying nothing had changed.

With comments at the meeting apparently conflicting over what city code allows, what the code allows is unclear.

The online version of the code as of a week ago contained this excerpt from Chapter 12.08: 12.08.060 Variances. It shall be within the discretion of the City Council to establish by resolution, after public notice and hearing in accordance with Section 20.60.040, variances to this chapter in respect to the width of streets and sidewalks upon any particular street or sidewalk but in no event shall the width of such street or sidewalk be less than a minimum of sixty feet Right-of-Way width and forty five feet Curb-to-Curb width for street asphalt section widths and five feet for sidewalk widths. (Ord 06-174 §1, 2006; Ord 680 §6, 1985)

The city’s website has a disclaimer saying the code is current through April 5, 2022. Whether later changes were made this year is unknown.

The city’s comprehensive plan also includes a map dated 2018 with the eastern three blocks of B Street NE designated Major Arterial. On the north side of the street, the block furthest east is zoned City Light Industrial. The same zoning designation exists on the south side of the street for the two furthest east blocks. 

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