BOSTON — During a hearing at the Statehouse yesterday, several lawmakers were put in the middle of the controversy surrounding a land swap in Beverly that would pave the way for the first phase of the Brimbal Avenue interchange project.
The hearing turned into a debate between Beverly Mayor Bill Scanlon — and other supporters of the project — and several residents who are vehemently opposed to the project. No action was taken at the hearing.
The mayor, city officials and the residents testified before the Joint Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight on a bill co-sponsored by state Rep. Jerry Parisella and state Sen. Joan Lovely. The bill would allow the state and private developer to swap parcels of land needed to start a $5 million project designed to improve traffic flow and safety around the Brimbal Avenue/Route 128 interchange.
The developer, CEA Group, plans to build a shopping plaza, which is expected to be anchored by a Whole Foods store. The swap must now be approved by the state Legislature.
Scanlon told the legislators that the current interchange is unsafe and causes significant traffic backups. The project, which has been in the works for over 10 years, would also create many jobs by promoting economic development, he said.
“This land transfer will allow for the best transportation design alternative to be constructed and will open up land — which is properly zoned for business development — to be effectively used,” he said, noting regional support from the North Shore Alliance of Economic Development. “Passage of the legislation before you will allow phase one of the project to proceed, creating what we believe will be in excess of 3,000 good regional jobs. Phase two is estimated to bring that number to 7,500 jobs.”
Scanlon said after nine hours of public hearings that the Beverly Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of the project and the City Council voted twice in favor, 7 to 2.