One resident created a Facebook page called “North Reading DOES NOT want Ocean State Job Lot in Our Community” on Saturday night. As of this morning, 126 people “like” the page.
Residents have been voicing their opposition on that Facebook page as well as North Reading Patch’s Facebook and website.
On Saturday night, North Reading Patch conducted an informal Facebook poll that asked readers if they support or oppose an Ocean State Job Lot at that location.
As of this morning, opponents outdistanced supporters about four-to-one and readers are continuing the debate there. The major argument against Ocean State Job Lot is that opponents don't want another discount store in town with two other discount stores (WalMart and Dollar Tree) across the street.
Opponents said they are going to send letters to Stop & Shop opposing an Ocean State Job Lot lease and some have even called for a boycott of Stop & Shop, which moved up its location to the former Star Market at the end of last year.
North Reading resident Lindsay Felix said she’s disappointed that Stop & Shop plans to lease the property to Ocean State Job Lot.
“This was an opportunity for Stop & Shop to show their commitment and care about our community and instead is putting in another box store that North Reading truly just doesn't need. With other retailers in town offering discounted merchandise, why not lease to someone that brings something new to our area?” said Felix.
North Reading resident Heather Wright said North Reading is already known as the “WalMart town” by those outside the community.
“My thought is an Ocean State Job Lot site here will certainly further support this concept of a trashy town, thereby lowering all property value,” she said.
Wright is concerned about the town’s community planning and pointed to Reading’s Main Street as a place that “provides wide sidewalks, a commuter rail, coffee shops, restaurants, butchers, pharmacies and other useful business.
“Driving from Reading and past the Welcome to North Reading signs is dreadful as you see only liquor stores, fast food, WalMart and now Ocean State Job Lot. We should better evaluate our future. I would like to see more support for our small local hardware stores, farm stores, country store and small businesses as I believe they show the good side of what North Reading has to offer,” said Wright.
Selectmen also voiced concern on Monday. Selectman Michael Prisco said he has received many phone calls and emails since a North Reading Transcript story last week quoted him as saying Ocean State Job Lot was coming to town. He added he has asked Ocean State Job Lot and Stop & Shop to come before the board and discuss their plans. At that time, residents can voice their concerns, he said.
“I really hope the community does show up,” said Prisco.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary also doesn’t support the idea. He said the town can’t stop the proposal because it conforms to the site’s zoning, but can make work to reduce impacts, such as limiting access/egress from Routes 62 and 28.
“It would not have been our first choice or our 21st choice for that particular parcel,” said O’Leary.
Though North Reading John Intorcio is not particularly in favor of Ocean State Job Lot, he doesn't think people should restrict Stop & Shop from doing business because some residents want a more upscale store.
He has two concerns about the movement to stop Ocean State Job Lot.
"First, you have the right to sell your home to anyone you please. You wouldn’t want the town to tell you that you can’t sell your home to someone who is gay, or black, or Muslim, or from Rhode Island. Similarly, Stop & Shop has the right to sell or lease their property to any business they see fit – as long as it’s consistent with zoning and the laws of the town. We don't get to tell them who they can or can't do business with.
"Second, I think it’d be great to have another retailer in town. It would give me more chances to shop locally and support the North Reading economy. Right now, the Stop & Shop site is a vacant blight on our town. Let’s bring in some business, jobs, and taxes, and we'll reap collateral profits for the restaurants and gas stations and other existing town businesses," he said.
Last year, the city of Somerville rejected an Ocean State Job Lot from going into a former Star Market.