SOMERVILLE, MA-Nearly everyone agrees that the 145-acres of riverside property here needs to be developed. The battle over the 26-acre tract that Taurus New England Investments Corp. will be developing is evidence of the differing views on how that should be accomplished.

Mayor Dorothy Kelly Gay signed a memorandum of agreement with the development company to build a mixed-use complex on the site of the Assembly Square Mall. The project will include a hotel, office park, parking, Home Depot and a waterfront park. Those who oppose this plan take issue with the fact that the mayor signed this agreement as well as the plan itself.

“That memorandum takes the form of a city contract,” Alderman-at-large Denise Provost tells “I don’t think she has the power to do that.” Sean Fitzgerald, Mayor Kelly Gay’s press secretary, disagrees. “That’s the power and function of the mayor,” he tells “She is supposed to negotiate these kind of arrangements.”

The problem that many have with the plan is the big box stores, and the parking lots that accompany them, that the mayor will allow developers to create. At Assembly Square, developers are planning on putting in a Home Depot.

“It represents bad urban design,” Provost points out. “Locating an enormous box and an enormous parking lot there is not good in terms of scale or visual aesthetics. This site is right along the Mystic River and is the entrance from Route 128 to Assembly Square.”

Somerville, adds Provost, was built to traditional urban scale. She feels these plans cater to a more suburban, more auto-oriented community. According to Fitzgerald, however, the developers have a strong legal right to build a Home Depot at this site.

“They have an existing lease that stipulates they have this right,” he points out. “By having them submit to the MOA, the city is getting much more than they otherwise would have.” The mayor, says Fitzgerald, felt she had to compromise on the Home Depot in order to get the mixed-use project she wanted at that site.

It was Kelly Gay who initially did not like Taurus’s focus on retail stores and insisted that the company add the hotel, office buildings and waterfront park. Fitzgerald adds, “We are getting many public initiatives paid for with private money.” Taurus could be forced to submit to a site plan review on their project.

The city planning board, which is appointed by the mayor, issues recommendations to the zoning board of appeals, which makes the final ruling. The planning board’s recommendations are an important factor in the final ruling.

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