SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

January 29, 2014

Column: I will vote ‘yes’ on Feb. 8

On Saturday, Feb. 8, Beverly voters will vote on whether to uphold or overturn the City Council’s 2013 decision to rezone the state owned land at Exit 19 North (between Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue).

This rezoning would make possible a land swap between the state and the adjacent landowner, the CEA Group, facilitating the construction of a new access road on the CEA Group’s land.

I greatly respect the citizens who engaged in the democratic process of organizing the petition drive that placed this question on the ballot. You have shown that you care deeply about both our neighborhoods and our city’s future decisions regarding appropriate development throughout the Brimbal Avenue/Dunham Road/Route 128 corridor. All opinions on this issue are valid, and I ask voters to be respectful of each other and of our democratic process in the coming days.

We are in the midst of a serious-minded, spirited debate. As Beverly’s mayor, I understand how increasingly confusing this issue has become, so l want to tell you what I know about this project. Based upon what I know, I believe a “Yes” vote is the right one for our city.

Whatever the outcome of this election, I look forward to working with all interested people to ensure this multi-phased project is done right — in a way that will improve traffic safety, promote appropriate and needed economic development, and ensure that our neighborhoods continue to thrive.

Since taking office on Jan. 6, I have spent more time working on this issue than any other— working with state and city officials, neighbors, and the developer. In doing so, I have identified two main issues that need clarification:

Where will the road improvements be made? The week before I took office, I was made aware that the state’s Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) had expressed concern with building the new access road on the land currently owned by the CEA Group. Specifically, state officials questioned the structural integrity of building the road on the former landfill and now strongly believe that significant amounts of fill would have to be removed from the site at a high cost in order to build the road. As a result, the DOT directed the city’s engineer (Jacobs Engineering) to present an alternate design that would build the road within the footprint of the existing access road connecting Sohier Road and Brimbal Avenue. Jacobs has done so. MassDOT engineers have reviewed this very preliminary design and believe it to be viable. However, this is a very early review, and we can’t yet be certain of its viability.

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