To the editor:

As a life-long resident of Peabody, I am astounded and outraged by the secrecy and backroom shenanigans behind the proposal to develop a colossal complex in our beautiful neighborhood at the site of J.B. Thomas Hospital.

First there was an effort to change the zoning where the neighbors were not informed. The January public notice of this attempt made no mention of the area to be changed and could have been anywhere in the city with no one the wiser. When we the neighbors caught wind of this at the last minute, we gathered as many as we could and stormed this charade. Upon arrival, Mayor Bettencourt corralled us in his office and told us the matter will be tabled. This was an effort to quell any public dissension. We were packed like sardines in the mayor’s office voicing our displeasure with both the project and the lack of transparency.

Because the zoning change sleight of hand failed, a new tool has been pulled from their bag of tricks to get this project approved; filing a special permit the last week of June.

At the July 11th City Council meeting, it was clear that Councilor Manning-Martin had concerns over the timing of the filing for a new special permit for this massive project coinciding with the City Council’s summer recess. When she attempted to speak on the matter, the City Council president, Ward 1 Councilor John Turco, blatantly tried ignoring her request to address the council and then tried to stifle her. When the veteran councilor pressed on, she clearly articulated her concerns and asked the Ward 4 councilor to ask the petitioner for a mutually agreed extension that would allow her and her colleagues to be more prepared, while being inclusive of the neighbors.

Not only was the Ward 4 councilor indignant at her request, he indicated he felt blindsided by his colleague’s request. Can you imagine that, him feeling blindsided? The city has kept neighbors in the dark this entire time! In dismissing Councilor Manning-Martin’s request, Councilor Charest deferred to the schedule and needs of the developer, a company from China, over the concerns of the residents he represents.

This type of chicanery by elected officials is damaging to our city, our democracy, our rights to protect our property and quality of life. We will be there on Aug. 22 when this public hearing has been scheduled, and I suggest to those of you who are not directly affected by this development, there is one coming to your neighborhood soon; you just don’t know it.

Dianne Hamilton

Peabody