SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 1, 2013

Group accuses city of untruth

Coalition wants Brimbal waiver withdrawn due to 'misrepresentation'

BY PAUL LEIGHTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — An environmental group has accused the city of a making a “clear misrepresentation” on its application for an environmental waiver for the Brimbal Avenue project.

In a letter to the state environmental office, the Norwood Pond Coalition has asked officials to withdraw the waiver because it was granted based on an “untrue” statement made by the city.

“We urge your careful consideration of this information and withdrawal of the granted waiver so that Phase 1 of the project can go through rigorous and appropriate (environmental) review,” the Sept. 20 letter said.

A spokeswoman for the state Energy and Environmental Affairs office said the state does not plan to revisit the decision to grant the waiver. She did not address the point raised by the Norwood Pond Coalition in its letter.

The city applied for the waiver on May 31, saying a lengthy environmental review would jeopardize its “successful application” to the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program to pay for the project’s design and construction.

On Aug. 28, Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan granted the waiver, agreeing with the city that loss of the “funding commitment” would constitute an “undue hardship,” one of the requirements for granting the waiver.

But the city did not even submit an application for the $5 million in construction funding until Sept. 12, nearly four months after saying its application had been successful. The application is still being considered by the state.

In its letter, the Norwood Pond Coalition said there can be no hardship due to loss of funding if the funding has not been granted.

“Any alleged hardship for loss of funding ... does not conform to the facts, now revealed,” wrote Margaret Stolfa, a lawyer representing the Norwood Pond Coalition.

Mayor Bill Scanlon said yesterday that he hadn’t seen the coalition’s letter and declined to comment on the apparent discrepancy.

“If they’ve got something they’re sending to the (environmental) secretary, I’m sure they’ll deal with it,” Scanlon said.

The Brimbal Avenue project has come under increasing scrutiny as residents learned that the road improvements were tied to a proposed $20 million shopping plaza.

The City Council must vote to rezone a section of land on Brimbal Avenue in order for the plaza to be built and the connector road between Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue to be moved. The project would also include bike paths, new sidewalks and a widening of a section of Brimbal Avenue.

The proposal has drawn large crowds at public hearings and strong protests over the increased traffic that would be created by the plaza, which would include a Whole Foods Market as its anchor store.

The City Council is scheduled to take up the rezoning proposal at its meeting on Oct. 7.

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