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Local News

December 17, 2008

Mayor puts on push for Lowe's development

SALEM — Let's build something together.

That's not just the slogan for Lowe's, it's the pitch Mayor Kim Driscoll has been making to leaders lately to try to bring the national home-improvement chain to Salem.

Since re-filing plans for a zoning change that would allow a Lowe's on Highland Avenue and a rebuilt Walmart next door, Driscoll has tried to reach out to business leaders, undecided city councilors and even political dissenters.

Earlier this month, the original proposal fell one vote short of City Council approval after a flood of residents and members of neighborhood groups criticized the plan.

This time around, however, Driscoll appears to be fighting back.

Shortly after the Council defeated the plan, Driscoll reached out to members of The Salem Partnership, a powerful local business lobby. The group has since endorsed Driscoll's new zoning plan (though it's steering clear of the specific Lowe's/Walmart project).

"From the Partnership's viewpoint, the zoning change was important to make for future development and for the taxes to the community," President George Atkins said.

The Salem Chamber of Commerce, too, is backing the zoning change, and Executive Director Rinus Oosthoek called the Lowe's project "a great investment in Salem."

After Monday night's School Committee meeting, Driscoll approached Jim Fleming, a frequent critic of the administration, to sit down and talk about the proposal.

"We talked briefly (Monday) night," said Fleming, who wants to hear more from the developer about the specifics of the Lowe's plan. "I'm going to go in and talk to her this week."

For her part, Driscoll said many business leaders and residents are raising the issue on their own.

"We've certainly reached out to people, but we've also heard from a lot of people who think this is a good project," Driscoll said. "... If we don't advocate for this project, only the people who are opposed to it get heard. We want to make sure that doesn't happen."

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