SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

January 1, 2014

Letter: Brimbal Ave. group responds to questions about upcoming vote


The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

In preparation for the special election on Feb. 8, it’s important that voters have the information they need to make informed decisions regarding Phase 1 of the Brimbal Ave. project. I’d like to respond to Bailey Bishop’s letter regarding what a yes/no vote means on Feb. 8, because I’m sure many people will have similar questions.

Questions: Is the vote simply a “yes” or “no” vote for or against the zoning change on said 21/2 acre parcel of land owned by the city? Would a “no” vote by the majority of voters stop the proposed land swap of this 21/2 acre parcel with the developer?

Simply put, a “no” vote on Feb. 8 would change the zoning of the 3.67 acres of state-owned land back to its original IR zoning, so it would no longer be zoned for retail development. The developer, CEA group, has made it clear that unless the state-owned parcel of land is zoned for retail use, they are not interested in the land swap, so a “no” vote would effectively stop the land swap.

Question: Would a “no” vote by the majority of voters prevent the proposed $5 million state project to redesign the interchange between Route 128 and Brimbal Ave. from moving forward?

If the rezoning that facilitates the land swap doesn’t go through, it would stop the $5 million interchange redesign from moving forward. We believe the proposed road project would have great negative impacts on Brimbal, its residents and residents throughout the city. Also, Phase 1 does not remediate traffic; it adds 300 extra cars per peak hour to Brimbal Avenue, and it doesn’t move Phase 2 any closer to completion. Simpler alternatives to road improvements should be considered. It is also worth noting that at this time, Phase 1 plans haven’t received 25 percent approval from the Department of Transportation.

Question: Would a “no” vote by the majority of voters stop the development of the land on Brimbal that includes a proposed Whole Foods?

CEA can develop on their current property, and a “no” vote won’t stop them from doing so. However, if they choose to develop, they will be responsible for traffic studies, traffic mitigation and disposal of the contaminated landfill located on their property. It was discussed at the Brimbal Ave. Advisory Committee meeting that additional money for environmental remediation will be required to develop on CEA’s parcel of land. If the rezoning/land swap does not go through, CEA would be incurring those expenses if they decide to build; if it does go through, the taxpayers would be taking them on.

According to Jacob’s Engineering, 15,000 cubic yards of soil will need to be removed from the CEA property in order for new drainage pipes to be laid down for Phase 1. The expense of removing 15,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil hasn’t been factored into the cost of the project, let alone the potential health risks and environmental hazards associated with the former landfill. Currently, the projected cost of the project is $5.1 million without additional environmental costs or hazardous-waste disposal expenses factored in. The taxpayers will be responsible for these additional expenses if the land swap proceeds.

Question: Can the proposed $20 million state project that includes building a new bridge over Route 128 with access to Dunham Road, the music theater and potentially developable land on either side of the highway, with potentially less impact to residential neighborhoods, proceed without the $5 million Brimbal interchange project occurring?

The proposed $20 million Phase 2 of Brimbal Interchange project could proceed without the Phase 1 $5 million project. Originally, there was only one phase of the Brimbal Ave. project, and it did not include the same roadway changes (e.g. rotaries) that are currently in the Phase 1 plan. The project was divided into two phases in order to start with a smaller project, since the second phase (the new bridge over 128) is such a major project that may not occur anytime in the foreseeable future. Still, there are other ways of creating Phase 2 without pursuing Phase 1. In fact, Phase 2 would make Phase 1 largely irrelevant.

We remain grateful to all the people who have given us this opportunity to vote. If you’d like to learn more about the Brimbal Ave. project and the special election, please visit our website at savebrimbalave.org, or join us at the Vittori Rocci Post on Jan. 9 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. for a North Beverly Neighborhood Association meet, greet and educate about the Brimbal Ave. project.

Molly Benson

on behalf of the North Beverly Neighborhood Association