For all of the impassioned debate over tomorrow’s special election on the Brimbal Avenue zoning change, the consequences of voting yes or no might not be as stark as people think.
At one time the election was framed as a way to either support or defeat a proposed $20 million shopping plaza and $5 million traffic project, both of which depended on a land swap that would be made possible by the rezoning.
But that story line changed last week when Mayor Mike Cahill announced that the city would get the $5 million state grant for the traffic project regardless of the outcome of the special election.
That means that no matter how the election turns out, both the shopping plaza and traffic project will likely proceed. The election will affect both of them to varying degrees, but will not kill either one.
Essentially, the election will help determine two things: the location of a new road connecting Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue, and the size of the shopping plaza.
Cahill said it is still important for people to vote “yes” to keep open the city’s options in designing the traffic project.
A “yes” vote would allow the city to swap land with a private developer and build a new connector road on a former city landfill, 400 feet from the road’s current location. Engineers have said moving the road farther from Route 128 will prevent backups onto the highway and improve traffic flow.
Cahill revealed last week, however, that the landfill might not be able to support a road without an expensive fix. Engineers have come up with an alternative that calls for building a new connector road on its current footprint. If they do that, the rezoning and the land swap become unnecessary.
The North Beverly Neighborhood Association, which is advocating for a “no” vote, also says the election remains important.