, Salem, MA


February 4, 2014

Letter: Managing change in Beverly

To the editor:

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozlement. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozlement has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you’ve given a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

— Carl Sagan, “Science as a Candle in the Dark”

For the past six years, I’ve attempted to have the city repair my sidewalk. Each time I call, I’m told that “…you’re on the list.” I’ve never seen the list. No one, I believe, has ever seen the list. To me and others, the list resides in a place far, far away in a place where secret lists are kept. A place known only to God and the head of the city’s Department of Public Works.

It’s hard to imagine that a simple sidewalk repair decision could be so complicated especially when compared to the process of changing the zoning rules on Brimbal Avenue to facilitate the construction of Steven Cohen’s new strip mall.

Just minutes after its last public hearing on the controversial Brimbal Avenue zoning changes concluded, the Beverly City Council scurried to convene, vote and approve those zoning changes, ignoring the pleas made by North Beverly residents regarding increased traffic flow. The engineering, it turns out, was weak because the site plan had not taken into account the requirements for building a new connector road over an existing landfill. This alone jeopardizes any action on the planned connector road and provides some insight of how poorly thought out Beverly’s overall plan may be. The councilors once again held steadfast to the previous mayor’s decision to rush through his plans to accommodate the construction of Mr. Cohen’s strip mall, which would involve a state land swap to accommodate not only the strip mall itself, but plans to build an expanded “anchor” tenant — Whole Foods. The expanded supermarket was the basis for the North Beverly residents’ uproar over increased traffic flow.

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