Intervention at the top level of Massachusetts state government seems to have put plans for the development of a new supermarket in Cambridgeport back on track.
Monday night, Gov. William F. Weld '66 ordered the Metropolitan District Commission (MDC) to vote to allow 18-wheeler truck traffic on Memorial Drive, clearing the way for the development of a Super Stop and Shop there at the site of the old store, which was closed down in May.
Weld's decision effectively overturns a recent MDC decision upholding the long-standing ban on trucks on Mem Drive, A position MDC Commissioner M. Ilyas Bhatti publicly supported.
The supermarket chain's design for the enlarged store requires that trucks servicing the one-stop shopping site travel on Mem Drive for about 350 yards when exiting the site.
According to Weld spokesperson Pamela A. Jonah, the governor met with Bhatti, Stop and Shop executives and State Speaker of the House Charles Flaherty about the matter over the past two months before making his decision.
"[The MDC] will take a vote that bears out the governor's decision," she said.
The MDC did not return calls yesterday or Wednesday.
Mary Jo Anderson, spokesperson for Stop and Shop, said yesterday that the company plans to go ahead with developing the store, assuming it can pass the remaining hurdles.
"There is a rezoning pending before the planning board," she said. "It just a little too early to go out on a limb and name a date that construction will begin...but as soon as
we can possibly open it we will."
The issue has divided Cambridge intoconservationists who wish to protect the CharlesRiver basin from 18-wheelers and hungryCambridge-port residents who want a convenientplace to shop.
Former city mayor Alice K. Wolf has publiclyopposed allowing trucks on Mem Drive, whilecurrent Mayor Kenneth E. Reeves' 72 has supportedit.
But it seems that the Cambridge City Council,which voted a few months ago to officially supportthe building of the new Stop and Shop, had a handin the decision as well.
In late June, Weld requested that cityofficials write him a letter detailing their standon Stop and Shop. City Manager Robert W. Healy andReeves wrote the letter on July 1, Chief of Staffto the Mayor Issac T. Graves said this week.
"The city was particularly concerned aboutresolving the traffic issues," Graves said.
The letter went out at "5 p.m. on the Fridaybefore the Fourth of July," Graves said, thusdelaying the possible response by a few days.
When Graves and Reeves ran into another topstate official over the holiday, though, theopportunity seemed too good to pass up.
"The mayor and I were up at a barbecue duringthe Fourth of This past Monday, Reeves and Weldspoke again on the issue, with Reeves saying that"something needed to be done" on the issue.
Once the MDC vote has been taken, the matterwill become the concern of the city bureaucracy,including the Council's Stop and Shop subcommittee.
Susan B. Schelesinger, acting assistant for themanager of community development of Cambridge,said yesterday that Stop and Shop must go throughsome more steps before beginning construction.These include obtaining a building permit andpossibly receiving Board of Zoning Appealsapproval for a rezoning of a strip of adjoiningland and for some planned landscaping.
"The major issues for them now are the rezoningand getting the MDC decision memorialized inwriting," she said.
But Graves said he viewed Weld's decision assignificant news.
"The governor showed some leadership," Gravessaid. "I know it was a tough decision for thegovernor...[but] I think the bottom line is thatthe governor's a Cambridge resident and understoodthe issue.