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."
Four city councilors initially voted against the zoning change, meaning Driscoll needs at least one of them to reconsider. The council is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal next month.
Councilor-at-large Steve Pinto yesterday said he's still undecided. He's received close to 100 phone calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the project.
"I was approached by quite a few people at the mayor's fundraiser (last week) as to why I came to the conclusion I came to," Pinto said. "I just try to tell people there was a lot more to it than just saying no to Lowe's."
Although he feels the mayor's new plan has addressed his initial apprehensions about density, he's still concerned after hearing worries from businesses on Technology Way about the possibility of residences going in nearby if the zoning change passes.
"I haven't made up my mind," Pinto said.