, Salem, MA

October 19, 2013

Letter: Key to my kingdom

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

This is an open letter to the Beverly City Council.

You nine city councilors hold the key to my kingdom on Brimbal Avenue. While your next vote will simply determine whether or not the parcel of land in question is to be rezoned, your decision has far-reaching effects. Once the key is given away to the developer who has submitted plans for a substantial shopping mall on his parcel of land, you open the gates to a type of development that is not in the best interest of most of the citizens. I realize there are many steps that will follow your vote, but your vote carries with it all of the responsibility for the risks (environmental, personal safety and financial come to mind immediately), that this poorly planned development carries for the citizens of our community.

The current proposal is not conceived with the best interests of the people or the land. The environmental safeguards that are in place to protect the people and the land have been waived so as not create a hardship for Beverly in potentially losing a state grant that we had not applied for at the time of the waiver request. There is a rush to give away the key in order to secure a deal that has the potential of providing some money to begin highway improvements that may better accommodate the level of commerce that will result from the rezoning. There are promises for economic gain and a vision that Beverly cannot move forward without giving this away.

Taking this point further, there is a fear the leaders are responding to in their rush to approve such a questionable project. There is a fear that if we do not accept the potential grant money — which can’t be done without the land swap and the rezoning — then Beverly will lose out on future funds and will, in effect, lose business and tax revenue. I appreciate the strength and power of fear — but I do not believe it is a sound force to use in making a far-reaching decision. I ask that you nine city councilors, elected by the people to represent the people, seriously consider the responsibility that this vote carries. It is not simply a vote to rezone a parcel of land; it is a vote that will dramatically change our community. Such a vote, in my opinion, requires far more thought, consideration, discussion and planning than has taken place. You have it in your power, should you choose to exercise it, the right to reject rezoning and apply for a $1 million-$2 million grant for a scale-appropriate project to improve the traffic flow in the area.

If you remain unable to vote no to this measure on Monday night, you have the ability to move to table the final vote until more stakeholders have had the opportunity to critically review this potentially harmful project. A vote to rezone at a later time, when all of the proper steps have been taken to ensure the safety and well-being of the citizens is fair. Vote to rezone now and you place a great many citizens at risk. That is an “awesome” responsibility that you assume with one vote — whether or not you are running for re-election.

Please consider the matter carefully; it has been said that the vote is simply procedural. It is a lot more than that. You all hold the key to my kingdom, and I am hoping that you will either vote no to rezone at this time or move to postpone a decision.

Carol Chalker