, Salem, MA

January 24, 2014

Letter: Vote 'Yes' on Feb. 8

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

I believe that it is in the best interest of the city of Beverly that the vote in the Feb. 8 special election be a strong “Yes” in support of the overwhelming majority of the City Council and the unanimous decision of the Planning Board to rezone a parcel of state-owned land immediately adjacent to Brimbal Avenue and Route 128.

It should be no surprise that vacant land — already zoned for commercial and industrial development — at the junction of an important feeder road and the area’s major superhighway is to be developed. However, the actual first step in that development, so-called Phase I, includes a rezoning to enable a land swap so the road that connects Brimbal Avenue with Sohier Road can be moved. That specific detail had not previously been publicly discussed. It would have been far better had former city administration been more open about this particular step during its many comments on the prospects of development in the area. That, however, does not change that the fact that a “yes” vote is better for Beverly.

1. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly because we need the significant tax and other revenue that the development of this land and, after Phase II, the vacant land north of Route 128 will bring. We need a new middle school, a new public safety facility and want to maintain quality public services without catastrophic increases in taxes on homeowners. The locations of the proposed development on both sides of Route 128 are in-line with long-standing provisions of the city Master Plan.

2. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly because the economy of Beverly will greatly benefit from the additional hundreds, perhaps thousands, of temporary and permanent jobs that construction and development on both sides of 128 will create.

3. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly because we should be very clear that if there is no Phase I, there will probably be no Phase II anytime soon, and we need the revenue and jobs Phase II will create.

4. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly because the resulting road realignment will greatly ease longstanding traffic danger-points in the area. Currently, at both the Sohier Road and the Brimbal Avenue ends of the connector road, left turns can be very difficult. Further, moving the connector road will reduce “stacking” on Route 128 of cars bound for the North Shore Music Theatre. Indeed, with the eventual construction of Phase II, which will not happen without Phase I, theater traffic will never be on Brimbal Avenue at all. Further, Phase ll will take theater traffic and the traffic of new development off the residential portion of Dunham Road.

5. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly because the addition of a Whole Foods store will give the people of Beverly more shopping options. It is understandable that existing stores do not want new stores, but more competition, especially in the specialty-foods niche, is good for the consumer. Indeed, a supermarket and other stores south of Route 128 might actually reduce traffic at the terrible Laurel-Dodge-Enon intersection, as people from Centerville and the Cove may choose not to go to North Beverly to shop.

6. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverl, because if we choose to turn down the $5 million of state money to do this road work, it will make getting other state money for other needed projects that much less likely. The competition for state funding is fierce. A community that appears not to know what it wants, and that repudiates its elected leaders and the expert boards that make decisions, is far less likely to receive money than a community that speaks clearly and with one voice as to what it wants.

7. A “Yes” vote is better for Beverly, because without the land-swap the development on Brimbal Avenue, south of Route 128, can still go forward without solving the turning and stacking issues, and probably without the very desirable Whole Foods store. Such an outcome also makes the very important Phase II much less likely, surely the worst outcome.

If, as I urge, the attempt to overturn the rezoning fails, there will be many more steps in the process of development on both sides of Route 128. I hope all the people of Beverly are actively involved in those steps. For now, I believe that it is critically important that the vote on Feb. 8 be a resounding “yes.”

Charles F. Grimes