SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 10, 2014

Brimbal vote might not matter

Cost of making CEA land suitable for road might be prohibitive

BEVERLY — Now that Saturday’s special election on the Brimbal Avenue rezoning question has been decided, the next question to answer is whether the outcome even matters.

By a vote of 3,978 to 3,743, voters upheld the City Council’s decision to rezone a 3.6-acre parcel of land between Brimbal Avenue and Route 128, opening the door to a redesigned interchange and a new shopping plaza.

The plan calls for the state and private developer CEA Group to swap adjacent parcels of land, with the city building a new connector road on the CEA land and CEA building a $20 million plaza on the state land.

But that option might not even be viable due to concerns over building the road on the CEA land, an old city landfill.

Mayor Mike Cahill said yesterday that the next step is for state transportation officials and CEA Group to reach a deal for CEA to pay the costs of ensuring that the land is structurally sound enough to support a road.

If the two sides can’t agree on that cost — estimates have ranged from $500,000 to $5 million — the rezoning won’t be needed, the land swap is off the table, and Saturday’s election is essentially moot.

If that happens, the city would pursue the possibility of building a new connector road on its current footprint, and CEA Group would build a smaller plaza on its current land.

Cahill said he was pleased with the outcome of the election because it preserves both choices for the city.

“I’m appreciative that we’ll continue to have more than one option on the table,” he said. “It’s not clear yet whether either or both of those designs will be buildable, so to continue to look at both of them is a good thing.”

Cahill said the city’s engineering firm, Jacobs Engineering, has said a connector road would work at either location, but moving it 400 feet farther from Route 128 would allow the road to function at a higher level.

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