SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 8, 2013

Athas: Focused on the downtown, controlling development

BY ALAN BURKE
STAFF WRITER

---- — Editor’s note: Peter McGinn and Arthur Athas are both candidates for Ward 2 city councilor. The election is Tuesday, Nov. 5.

PEABODY — In his eighth year as Ward 2 city councilor, Arthur Athas hasn’t seen an opponent since his first campaign. Thus, his approach is a little different in 2013, given the challenge from Peter McGinn.

“I’m campaigning like crazy,” he says. “I’ve always liked going door-to-door. This time, I’m doing a lot more.”

From the beginning, Athas has been a strong voice for controlling development. He points to a bylaw he promoted that requires builders to get a special permit from the council before they can construct “high-density” apartments in his downtown ward. Big projects bring lots of kids, he said. Their educational needs mean higher taxes.

“We have a lot of families who are having a hard time making ends meet,” he said. “In my opinion, there’s already enough housing in Peabody.”

He said he embraces Peabody’s low-tax ethic, but doesn’t rule out needed expenditures. He voted for a new Higgins Middle School, for example.

“People are looking for value from their tax dollars,” he said.

In the downtown, Athas has advocated more signage, better crosswalks, and new lights at Walnut and Central streets.

“Strong Water Brook runs through the ward,” he added, and he’s pushed for “regular maintenance of culverts and choke points,” work that has improved the flooding problem.

Further, Athas was an advocate for zoning changes meant to open up Centennial Park to a more diverse occupancy, including shops and restaurants.

“Going through the zoning ordinance, I saw we still restricted the type of business. ... Why should we when we’re looking to expand commercially?”

In 2012, Peabody was named one of the top 100 communities to live in by Money Magazine, Athas said. It’s a boast they can’t make in surrounding towns like Danvers and Salem, he added proudly.

Arthur Athas