Members of the neighborhood group that represents the streets along American Legion Highway in Roslindale vowed last night to fight a possible renewed attempt by a Taco Bell franchisee to open an outlet on American Legion at Walk Hill Street, between the Wendy's and the Haley Pilot School.
State Rep. Russell Holmes (D-6th Suffolk) told the Mount Hope/Canterbury/Manning/American Legion Neighborhood Association that he would join them in their fight against yet another fast-food drive-thru place on Roslindale's fast-food strip.
"I'm a no to Taco Bell," Holmes said.
Haley School Principal Kathleen Mendes Sullivan also voiced objections to sticking a Taco Bell next to her school.
A Taco Bell franchisee in Tennessee first proposed the location of the current Frosty Freeze and a used-car lot for a 24-hour drive-thru outlet in the spring of 2016. After the neighborhood group collected some 375 signatures on petitions against the idea and then voted it down unanimously at a meeting, the idea quietly disappeared.
But over the past couple of weeks, the franchisee has talked to Boston city officials to talk about re-starting the application process for a new Taco Bell, which would require approval from both the zoning board and the Boston Licensing Board - as well as meetings with neighbors.
Residents and Holmes said a much better use of the land, if the ice cream and cars must go, would be a community center, both for the neighboring Haley, which has no gym, and for neighbors - including the people who will be moving into the recently approved apartment building across American Legion. Nobody has yet to formally propose a community center - or funding for it - however, and Holmes said he could support commercial reuse of the land, just not for a fast-food outlet with a drive-thru.
Group organizer Lisa Beatman summarized the case against Taco Bell: A drive-thru at "the most dangerous intersection in the area" would only make conditions there worse and it's yet another low-nutrition fast-food outlet literally right next to a school, in a neighborhood that does not currently has a single non-fast-food restaurant and which already suffers the privations of slobs who toss their fast-food trash out their windows.
She said the Taco Bell would be the eighth fast-food joint on the strip. "That would be unacceptable in any other part of Boston," she said.
One resident tried playing devil's advocate. "People like fast food," Dmon Bills said. As an example, he pointed to his children: "I might like La Taqueria, they might like mushy gray tacos."
The possible impending battle is the latest for neighbors in the stretch from the intersection of American Legion, Cummins Highway and Canterbury Street down to Walk Hill Street, who say they sometimes feel forgotten by the rest of Roslindale, never mind the rest of the city.
One of the group's other efforts is to rename American Legion Highway to American Legion Parkway, in part to remove the perception it's a high-speed road where drag racers speed around with impunity on weekend nights and fast-food franchisees in other parts of the country think would be a good place for their restaurants because it's a highway. The group is also working to bring traffic calming methods to the road.
Holmes last year introduced legislation to make the name change, but withdrew his bill after Boston officials objected, saying the change should go through the city's "public improvement" process, because it's a city-owned road. The problem is that that process requires 100% buy-in from all the property owners along the road, and group organizer Rick Yoder said that is proving next to impossible since many of the parcels are owned by out-of-state corporations who just don't care.
The state of the neighborhood led to a brief verbal skirmish between Holmes and group members. Talking about the area's perception, Yoder said some people in the rest of Roslindale "are afraid to come over here."
Holmes, who also represents parts of Mattapan and Dorchester, said it's time to cut that kind of talk out, that the neighborhood is fine, his mother even lives there.
"You keep acting like this is not a well off neighborhood," he said. "Go to Franklin Field. Go to Franklin Hill."
Yoder responded by bringing up Jamaica Plain and the Back Bay. He and other residents agreed the area is great, but that the perception on the other side of Hyde Park Avenue isn't helped by things such as barbed wire on the fence around an American Legion Highway church building.
"No, this is a good neighborhood," Holmes continued. "Don't beat up on my neighborhoods is all I'm saying."