, Salem, MA

October 1, 2013

Letter: Why the Beverly City Council should vote no on Brimbal rezoning

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

On Oct. 7, the Beverly City Council will be voting on whether or not to approve a zoning change that will allow CEA to develop a shopping center on property it owns on Brimbal Avenue. That zoning change, if it were to occur, sets off a chain of events that includes a land swap and construction of a new interchange. Here are four reasons why the City Council should vote against it:

1. CEA, the developer doesn’t care a whit about Beverly (nor should they).

CEA’s goal is to make the greatest profit they can from its initial investment in an undeveloped parcel of land in North Beverly. And, not surprisingly, they are doing everything they can that will enable them to do just that. The majority of the people who ARE supposed to be the stewards of Beverly’s well-being by ensuring that the plan doesn’t adversely impact the surrounding community and that the plan fits with Beverly’s planning and zoning standards will be leaving their elected and appointed positions in a matter of weeks. The mayor, the Planning Board and the majority of the City Council are rushing to make decisions, and their decisions are not thoughtful ones. There is no date driving this, no $5 million in hand. This is largely a lame-duck mayor’s final agenda, and it’s being executed poorly.

2. The proposed traffic plan is flawed.

Jacobs Engineering was charged with redesigning an interchange at Exit 19, and so they did. Sadly, the area they focused on is only a very small section of Brimbal Avenue. The plan they created ignores Budleigh Avenue, the surrounding neighborhoods, and the fact that Brimbal and Budleigh essentially dead end at Essex Street on one end and Dodges Row at the other. Brimbal and Budleigh will bear the burden of the traffic headaches that are certain to arise, and yet, except for the short stretch in the proposed plan, are largely residential streets. Rather than alleviate traffic headaches on theater nights and create a smooth flow once CEA develops its property, they created a system that will create backups and cause commuters to use neighborhood roads as shortcuts. Their plan simply won’t work as it is currently conceived.

3. Procedural questions will come back to bite us if we don’t take time to address them now.

Procedural questions abound, and one, for example, has already been brought to the attention of state agencies. That particular one has to do with the city’s receipt of a waiver that was granted by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs based on false information contained in the city’s application. And there are others with regard to how decisions were made with CEA regarding the land swap, the application to MassWorks for funding, and more. These need to be addressed now rather than burdening new city leadership with a potentially litigious mess.

4. This is a tremendous opportunity for Beverly, and there are hundreds of people who can make it work.

The Planning Board, on Sept. 19, after quietly sitting through three public hearings attended by more than 500 people, held what was likely the shortest meeting in its history in order to vote in support of the zoning change, despite hours of hearing their neighbors speak against it. In their rush to ram this project through before the election, Planning Board members ignored their basic charge — to plan. This should not be about spot zoning and meeting the needs of one developer. Smart planning takes time. Had the Planning Board been listening, it would have heard people nearly screaming to be allowed to donate their knowledge and expertise — people who are city planners, engineers, local business owners, realtors, parents, cyclists, to name a few. It is foolish not to take advantage of this offer in light of the magnitude of this project. If our elected representatives vote to respect the public process on this major initiative and allow time for the residents who will be most impacted to have input into the final plan, you will find that there is a large part of the overall Brimbal interchange plan — perhaps even the majority of it — that many residents would support, if only their concerns were given equal weight to those of the developer, and the city’s need for new growth dollars.

In summary, we currently have a huge, flawed, unfunded project being pushed through by an administration that will be gone shortly. Redoing the interchange and smart planning regarding development of the area can be great for us all. But not this way.

Cathy Burack, Marilyn Humphries, Daniel and Pam DeAngelis, Kim and Daniel Foley, Mattheu Kelsch, Josh Morris, Carol Chalker, and Molly Benson

North Beverly Neighborhood Association

Pam Kampersal

Norwood Pond Coalition

John Hall and Katherine

Mills Myers

Montserrat Neighborhood Group

Mary Rodrick

Safe Drinking Water Alliance

Chris Snow