, Salem, MA

January 24, 2014

Letter: Beverly voters, please be careful

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

If CEA Group President Steven Cohen purchased land in order to “be involved in cleaning up a former landfill,” as he has stated, why has it taken him eight years to tell us? And further, that it’s on his dime, not taxpayers (qualifier: He‘ll pay after a budget max is reached). Wonderfully noble gestures that anyone would be proud of, so why has he waited until the 11th hour, after a months-long, emotionally charged campaign waged by neighborhood opponents, when an earlier disclosure would surely have cast him in more favorable light?

Something’s fishy here. This just doesn’t make sense.

Interesting that, during the city’s negotiations with the Black Cow restaurant, financial details were widely reported. Right down to how much money the city would make from parking meters! But with the Brimbal Avenue project, actual detail -- even the site maps keep changing -- is hard to come by. Perhaps the scale of the project makes it hard to predict, but isn’t that reason enough to slow down, step back and rethink?

When we counted all the strip malls/plazas in North Beverly -- from Rite-Aid to Shaw’s to North Beverly Stop & Shop to Montserrat, we counted 13. Thirteen! Among these are two large supermarkets that do sell fresh food and prepared meals and another nearby. Of these 13 strip malls/plazas, many have empty storefronts. In this proposed $25 million project, it seems to boil down to changing out one supermarket for another. And what about all the empty storefronts? How will Beverly’s established retail community be impacted? And the landfill cleanup on the property that Mr. Cohen has purchased, how much of the city’s budget (i.e., taxpayers) are we on the hook for before the ceiling is met and Mr. Cohen kicks in for cleanup of land that he owns? And, most personally, what about real estate values, won’t they take a hit?

Really, it’s not about Whole Foods. It’s about quality of life. Newer, detailed maps of the project area indicate other land parcels proposed for future development, so this project represents more than just another (big) plaza coming in.

Mr. Cohen said that folks who are questioning the project are misled and don‘t understand the issues. However, with so many questions, shouldn’t they be called prudent instead? The rezoning really is a referendum on the future of Beverly. Are we aiming to become another Route 114 and reward Mr. Cohen handsomely in the process?

The smoke is choking and the mirrors are blinding.

Please vote “No” on Feb. 8 and let’s insure that any new development in Beverly really is smart development.

Chris Snow