, Salem, MA

March 1, 2014

Letter: Varying opinions for Planning Board members

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

My name is James Matz, and I am a volunteer member of the Beverly Planning Board and I also serve as Planning Board representative on the Open Space Committee. I wanted to take this opportunity to write to the citizens of Beverly regarding the ongoing public discussion of the rezoning of a parcel on Brimbal Avenue and what I perceive as a lumping of all Planning Board members together in the media.

I first want to address false statements in the media that all members of the Planning Board were behind the “orange team” in support of a “yes” vote for the rezoning of the parcel on Brimbal Avenue. While a few/some members may have been involved, I personally am not certain of that; I can, however, say with certainty that I was not.

I want to be clear that I did vote “yes” on the issue but for my own specific reasons: to keep the current option “in play” while other options are further discussed and fully vetted; and regardless of final development option(s) proposed, the parcel in question is a landfill and as such should be covered with a cap of soil, asphalt, concrete, building or engineered barrier to protect human health, public safety, public welfare and the environment.

The “green team” would have all of us believe that those who support rezoning of this parcel do so because of greed. Where above have I said anything that can be construed as personal greed? The “green team” has also consistently referred to the landfill as a “toxic dump.” I have been employed as an environmental consultant now for 25 years, and I have two professional certifications. Although I have not read through all of the reports thoroughly, I can state comfortably that the landfill is not a toxic dump. And even if it was, wouldn’t it make even more sense to cap it and reuse the land safely for the benefit of all, as opposed to allowing the property to sit there covered only with weeds, thicket and bramble?

Another assertion of the “green team” is that if the parcel were to be rezoned, the general public would pay for its remediation and cleanup. First off, as noted above, the parcel does not need to be cleaned up; it needs to be properly capped and reused. More importantly, it is a matter of Massachusetts General Law that the owner of the parcel is responsible for the cleanup of their property, unless the buyer of the property assumes that liability. In that case, cleanup is still paid for via an escrow account set up between seller and buyer. In any event, MassDOT has shown no interest, and rightly so, in paying for the capping of the former landfill, and thus, it is simply not true that the citizens of Beverly would pay for capping of the landfill.

And finally, I wish to take up the issue of lumping all members of the Planning Board, or any volunteer board or committee in the city, into one like-minded unit. The Planning Board is an extremely diverse group of individuals who come from many walks of life. Look it up, check out what each of us does for a living. We may agree on a number of issues; rarely is that agreement unanimous, and that is no way an indication that we all think alike.

Speaking for myself now; my particular interests in the city are as follows:

fixing the numerous streets and sidewalks in the city in need of repair;

a new middle school;

redevelopment of Rantoul Street, using a combination of residential and mixed use;

a waterfront redevelopment plan that meets the needs of all citizens while maintaining access to open space;

resolution to the Brimbal Avenue redevelopment plan that meets the needs of all residents in our city;

interwoven through all this is a firm commitment to protect and expand the beautiful open spaces in Beverly.

As a member of the Planning Board, I have endeavored to ask the tough questions: Does this proposed development fit into the neighborhood, and does the plan have the support of the neighborhood? I take pride and accept it as an honor to also be serving on the City Open Space Committee. I dare say that few groups in the city work harder for you, the residents, than the Open Space Committee. Amy Maxner does a wonderful job as agent, and Charlie Mann is doing a great job as chairperson this year. Every member is deeply committed to protection of open space and the betterment of their community. I am also proud to have led a geology talk each year for the committee, as part of its weekend Earth Day walks program.

So, now perhaps you know a little bit more about one person who serves on the Planning Board. We are all not the same. There are hundreds of volunteers who give of their time to help make the city of Beverly a better place to live, and I, for one, appreciate everyone’s service. I ask all that instead of making assumptions and unfounded assertions, please get out into your community ... and make a positive difference for all of us.

Thank you.

James B. Matz