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September 17, 2013

Crowd brims over

Large turnout forces Brimbal hearing change

BEVERLY — The controversial project intended to improve traffic on Brimbal Avenue ran into a bottleneck of another kind last night.

So many people showed up for a public hearing at City Hall that the City Council was forced to postpone the hearing until Thursday and move it to a larger venue, Beverly High School.

More than 200 people turned out for the meeting, filling the benches and standing along the back and side walls inside council chambers on the third floor. That still left about 30 to 40 people stranded in the hallway, unable to hear what was going on.

City Council President Paul Guanci recessed the hearing after Brimbal Avenue resident Matt Kelsch spoke up and asked if there was any way to make room for the people in the hallway.

At the suggestion of Mayor Bill Scanlon, extra chairs were brought into the room. But after 20 minutes, the council and the Planning Board, who were holding a joint meeting, both voted to recess the hearing and continue it Thursday at 7 p.m. in Beverly High School.

It was an unprecedented move in recent memory for a public hearing to be postponed due to such a large crowd. Some residents applauded when the change was announced, but others were upset that city officials didn’t have the foresight to schedule the meeting at a larger venue in the first place.

Two weeks ago, more than 100 people turned out for the first phase of the public hearing and were standing against the walls. Peabody Avenue resident Mary Rodrick told councilors at that meeting that it should have been held at a larger location.

“The last meeting was standing-room only, and the council made no attempt to move the meeting,” Kelsch said. “It’s disappointing for us to see the citizenry treated like this. A lot of people work and have families. It gives them a short schedule to try to get them back here.”

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