SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

February 14, 2014

Benton: A big change

The biggest political news of the week came out of the town of Ipswich, where Selectman Patrick McNally announced he would not be running for re-election this spring after 24 years (and eight years before that as a member of the Planning Board).

His main accomplishment, as cited in a letter to the community: controlling growth in a town that was seemingly on a path toward rampant development three decades ago. According to McNally, “Ipswich now has well over 50 percent dedicated, never-to-be-built-upon open space.”

He’s not going anywhere, however, so board members will still be able to draw on his wealth of institutional knowledge.

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The bad news for the North Beverly Neighborhood Association and its allies was that it lost its effort to overturn the City Council’s vote on the rezoning of land at the intersection of Route 128 and Brimbal Avenue. The good news is it might not matter.

As Paul Leighton reported this week, the land swap the rezoning measure was meant to facilitate might be moot if it’s determined that environmental issues make the cost of building a new road through developer CEA Group’s property too expensive. A smaller shopping plaza and one new crossing on Brimbal Avenue, rather than two, would be a win for the neighborhood. Yet, it would still allow the city to proceed with plans to install a traffic light on the busy street and expand the interchange to allow development of land on both sides of the nearby highway.

New Mayor Michael Cahill emerged relatively unscathed from the battle. Despite urging a “yes” vote, he made clear his willingness to listen to all sides and provide neighbors a place at the table for discussions of future development in the area. On the other hand, the narrow margin and the fact that there is now a highly organized group still angry over the rezoning vote likely will have some city councilors looking over their shoulders in next year’s election.

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