BEVERLY — Despite the strong objections of neighbors, the City Council last night approved a controversial rezoning on Brimbal Avenue that could reshape that area of the city for years to come.
Councilors voted 7-2 in favor of the proposal, which will lead to a land swap between the state and a private developer that will likely trigger the development of a $20 million shopping plaza and a potential $25 million traffic project.
As councilors explained their votes, mostly by reading from prepared statements, about half of the 150 people in the audience at Beverly High School held up signs that read “Please Vote Not To Re-Zone.”
“I understand your concerns,” Councilor Scott Dullea said. “But the thing I kept coming back to is, this (shopping center) development is going to happen regardless of how we vote tonight. A ‘yes’ vote allows us to have safer streets.”
“No” votes by four councilors would have defeated the rezoning. But City Council President Paul Guanci and Ward 5 Councilor Don Martin, whose ward includes much of the affected area, were the only ones to vote against it, drawing applause from the crowd.
Guanci said he has spoken with hundreds of residents in the last few weeks about the project, an indication of the passion it has generated. He blasted what he called “belligerent, classless” comments on Facebook, saying, “I take things like that personal.”
Guanci said he decided to vote no because he thinks the number of cars generated by the shopping center will be “double or triple” what a traffic engineer has estimated.
“North Beverly will become even more of an island than it already is,” Guanci said.
Guanci said it was only the second time in his 10 years on the City Council that he has disagreed with Mayor Bill Scanlon on an issue. Scanlon, who has been working on the Brimbal Avenue project for almost a decade, is not running for re-election.