SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 9, 2013

Neighbors not relenting on Brimbal project

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Despite Monday’s key vote by the City Council, a leader of a neighborhood group said residents are not giving up on their opposition to the Brimbal Avenue project.

“We have not exhausted all of our efforts,” said Dan DeAngelis of the North Beverly Neighborhood Association. “We’ve got a very large community that’s very upset about this.”

DeAngelis, who lives on Brimbal Avenue, said he does not know what steps residents will take next, but he did not rule out legal action.

“We’re going to look into every possible option,” he said.

The City Council voted 7-2 on Monday to rezone a 21/2-acre parcel of land on Brimbal Avenue. The rezoning will enable developer CEA Group to swap pieces of land with the state, a transaction that will allow the state to move the current Route 128 connector road farther from the highway.

Once that work is complete, CEA Group plans to build a $20 million shopping plaza with a Whole Foods Market next to the new connector road.

Neighbors have objected to the project, saying the plaza will create too much extra traffic on an already-busy road.

The council’s vote on Monday was seen as the key step in the process, but both the traffic project and the shopping plaza still need other measures before they can proceed.

The state Legislature must approve the land exchange between the state and the developer. And the state, through its MassWorks Infrastructure Program, must approve the city’s application for $5 million in state funding for the traffic work.

Mayor Bill Scanlon said a bill will soon be submitted to the state Legislature asking approval for the land swap. And he said MassWorks usually announces its funding recipients in early November.

The traffic project also includes widening a section of Brimbal Avenue, installing roundabouts at both ends of the new connector road, building sidewalks and bike paths, and putting up a traffic signal at the intersection of Brimbal Avenue and Herrick Street Extension.

Meanwhile, CEA Group needs a special permit from the city’s Planning Board in order to build the shopping plaza. The board must consider several factors before granting the special permit, including traffic and objections from abutting property owners.

The City Council must also vote a second time to approve the zoning change, although that is considered a technicality.

The attorney representing developer CEA Group said yesterday that the shopping plaza cannot be built until the state completes the $5 million traffic project.

Tom Alexander said the traffic project could start next spring or summer “in the best-case scenario” and take about a year.

If that’s the case, he said, “(CEA Group) wouldn’t be able to look to do their project, assuming they get the necessary permits, until 2015.”

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