We need to carefully think through the arguments being offered in support of the rezoning and the overall Brimbal Avenue/Exit 19 interchange project, because they are problematic. For example:
Argument 1: This project (Phase One and Phase Two) is essential to Beverly’s economic growth; without it Beverly will become stagnant.
Counter 1: There are an abundance of growth opportunities in the city as it currently exists: the waterfront, downtown, Tozier Road (for example, vacant Appleseeds buildings), plenty of vacancies in existing plazas, etc. To believe that clear-cutting forest and filling wetlands in a predominantly residential area to build a sprawling development is the only way for Beverly to move forward is short-sighted and demonstrates a lack of vision and creativity. There are limited resources available to pursue economic development projects, and the city would be better served by spending those resources on the waterfront and continued revitalization of the downtown, which the citizens of Beverly overwhelmingly support. Further, we do not need to look far to find examples that prove we do not need to sell our souls to sprawling over-development to continue to do well — just look at Ipswich, Newburyport, Manchester, Lexington, etc. Let’s pursue smart growth that maintains and improves the quality of life of Beverly citizens.
Argument 2: CEA will build its plaza no matter what — they can build right now on their current land.
Counter 2: CEA has owned that land for eight years now and has done nothing. Their current land is the site of a former dump and will likely require expensive environmental remediation to move forward, which the company may not be prepared to do. Importantly, CEA needs a special permit to build on its current land. It would be incredibly irresponsible for the Planning Board to approve that permit without requiring CEA to fund measures to mitigate the traffic that the project will create. It is standard practice to require developers to pay to offset the negative impacts of their projects. Somehow, under the current Phase One proposal, CEA is making out like a bandit: getting more land in the land swap, trading hazardous land for clean land and not having to pay for any real traffic mitigation beyond, perhaps, a signal at the plaza access points. Why in the world are we giving the developers such a sweet deal? Regardless, if CEA builds on their current land it would need to be a smaller project, and if the Planning Board does its job correctly, there is no way we should end up in the situation with the plaza but no traffic mitigation.