BY PAUL LEIGHTON
---- — BEVERLY — If there were a special election at the Vittori-Rocci Post last night, the Brimbal Avenue project would have suffered a resounding loss.
An estimated 350 people packed into the function hall for a “Meet, Greet and Educate” event run by the North Beverly Neighborhood Association.
The meeting was part of the group’s effort to persuade residents to vote no in the Feb. 8 special election on the rezoning of Brimbal Avenue.
The rezoning would allow construction of a shopping center across the street from Vittori-Rocci Post with a special permit from the Planning Board and also trigger a $5.2 million road project intended to improve traffic flow in the area.
Wearing white T-shirts saying “Preserve Beverly’s Neighborhoods,” presenters from the neighborhood group ran down a litany of reasons why residents should defeat the rezoning.
Group member Jennifer Morris capped the list by citing “quality of life,” saying traffic problems will turn North Beverly into an “island.”
“At some point, too much development tips the scale,” she said. “For a city like Beverly, the sense of ‘this is a city that feels like a town’ that we’ve always embraced in Beverly will be gone.”
The neighborhood group answered dozens of questions from the audience on the complicated project, while at the same time saying they don’t have all the answers due to a lack of transparency with the process.
North Beverly resident Toby Claus, who said she is “greatly opposed” to the project, praised the neighborhood group for its presentation but also wondered how many people will come out to vote on a Saturday in February. Officials intend to hold the election only at Beverly High School, rather than at the city’s usual six polling locations.
“I’m not really sure how to get people from other parts of town out to vote,” she said.
Lowell Street resident James Passanisi, who called the Brimbal Avenue project “a terrible idea,” said he was encouraged by the large crowd.
“Given the turnout tonight, I’m pretty optimistic it will be stopped,” he said.
North Beverly Neighborhood Association members said they will hold more meetings between now and election, perhaps with smaller groups. They also encouraged people to purchase lawn signs, deliver fliers to homes and businesses, and volunteer to drive people to the polls.
“This is a unique opportunity to weigh in on a decision that’s going to have a large impact on our city,” Morris said.
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.