BEVERLY — Voters upheld the controversial Brimbal Avenue rezoning decision in a special election that drew more than 7,700 voters to the high school today.
The 'yes' vote prevailed, 3,978 to 3,743, with the majority of voters siding with the position of the current mayor, former mayor and the City Council over the passionate objections of a strongly organized neighborhood group.
By voting 'yes,' residents kept open the city's options for how to design a $5 million traffic improvement project around Brimbal Avenue as well as plans for a larger shopping plaza that would include a Whole Foods Market.
"I think it was a great vote for the city," said Bruce Nardella, chairman of the Better for Beverly group that backed a 'yes' vote. "I know a lot of neighbors very close to the vicinity were very charged up about it, but in the end it was a citywide issue and I think in the end what was better for the city prevails."
Opponents of the re-zoning said it would lead to a traffic project and private development that are out of scale with the neighborhood. But they faced a huge obstacle in a provision in the city charter requiring 20 percent of registered voters to overturn a decision by the City Council.
That meant the 'no' side needed 5,121 votes to win. A simply majority would not have done the job. The 'yes' side won by only 235 votes, 51.5 to 48.5 percent. But the 'no' side fell 1,378 votes short of what it needed to prevail.
The 'yes' vote carried four of the city's six wards. The 'no' vote won big in Ward 5, which encompasses Brimbal Avenue, and narrowly in Ward 3.
"We would've liked the results to be different, but our primary goal was to give folks the opportunity to vote," said Dan DeAngelis of the North Beverly Neighborhood Association. "I was encouraged by the fact that so many people turned out on so important an issue to the city as a whole."