SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 11, 2014

Developer spent $18K on Brimbal campaign

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — The developer who stands to benefit from the recent Brimbal Avenue zoning change spent $18,000 on last month’s special election, according to campaign finance reports filed yesterday at City Hall.

The $18,000 donated by Steven Cohen of CEA Group in Cambridge represented more money than all other contributions combined on both sides of the issue.

The money enabled Better for Beverly, the pro-rezoning group, to outspend the North Beverly Neighborhood Association by a 2-to-1 margin.

Dan DeAngelis of the North Beverly Neighborhood Association said the list of donors reflects the fact that the “yes” vote was funded mostly by the developer while the “no” vote was a “grass-roots effort.”

“We had no agenda other than to protect the neighborhood and protect what is truly best for Beverly,” DeAngelis said. “As opposed to Better for Beverly, most of their funding came from the developer who didn’t necessarily represent the citizens.”

Neither Cohen nor Better for Beverly chairman Bruce Nardella could be reached for comment.

Residents voted Feb. 8 in favor of a zoning change that would allow Cohen to swap land with the state and build a larger shopping plaza on Brimbal Avenue. The swap would also allow the city to build a new connector road between Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue in an effort to improve traffic safety.

The land swap is being held up while the state determines whether Cohen’s land, a former landfill, is sturdy enough to support a road.

Cohen gave $18,000 to Better for Beverly on Feb. 24, more than two weeks after the election, according to the group’s campaign finance report. The $18,000 accounted for all but $2,000 of the total contributions to the Better for Beverly campaign.

The next-largest donation was $300 from Tom Alexander, the Beverly attorney who is representing Cohen in the effort to build the plaza.

Other donors to Better for Beverly included former Mayor Bill Scanlon ($50), City Councilor Jim Latter ($50), former City Councilor Maureen Troubetaris ($25), former state Rep. Mary Grant ($50), and the campaign committees of City Councilor Jason Silva ($100) and former councilor and mayoral candidate Wes Slate ($25).

Better for Beverly spent the majority of its money, about $14,700, on printing and mailing costs.

The top donor to the North Beverly Neighborhood Association in the latest reporting period was Linden Avenue resident Ambia Smith, who gave $350.

The Brimbal Avenue rezoning proposal won at the polls, 3,978 to 3,743, a 235-vote margin. The “no” advocates would have needed 5,121 votes to win under a provision requiring 20 percent of registered voters to overturn a decision by the City Council.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

Brimbal Avenue campaign fundraising

Better for Beverly — $20,050

North Beverly Neighborhood Association — $10,758