Beverly Planning Board Approves Special Permit

In a 6 to 3 vote the Planning Board granted CEA a special permit that would allow for a Whole Foods and other retail establishments to be built on the landfill.   More details to follow on the specifics of the decision.  In the meantime choice comments from some of the six included “common sense is not legitimate”, “increased traffic is a good thing” and “people in Northridge should just close their windows” (in response to the impact this will have on them.  More details to follow.  In the meantime, this is what the 6 chose to ignore (published on Sat, 3/14):

To the editor of the Salem News:

On March 17 the Beverly Planning Board will vote on whether or not to grant a special permit that would allow the construction of the proposed North Shore Crossing retail plaza on Brimbal Avenue. In 2005 the Planning Board looked at the same question of whether this parcel of land should be rezoned from “IR” to “CG” to allow for retail development, and unanimously voted “no,” saying:
— “the rezoning would not provide a use that is necessary or desirable in the community;”
— “By allowing retail uses along Brimbal Avenue, the additional stores would draw investment from other retail areas in the city;”
— “it is not consistent with the Master Plan because the City wants to maintain the integrity of its IR Districts”
— “Traffic is so problematic with the Norwood Pond Industrial area. It is not a peak traffic issue, but an issue caused by an overall far more intensive use”
— “The decision should not be influenced by who the owner is or by the anticipated tax revenue.”
— “This use would have an extremely adverse impact on traffic and safety.”
Since 2005, traffic in the area has worsened, making a retail plaza in that location even more problematic than in the past. The current proposal is far more retail- and traffic-intensive than anything that was on the table in the past, also making it more problematic. Also, in recent years the city has renewed its commitment to revive downtown Beverly as the commercial center of the city, making a sprawl development that draws away from downtown more problematic. All these things suggest that it should be even more likely for the Planning Board to vote no now than it was in 2005. The new connector road project is simply not sufficient to justify a yes vote. The roadway project only addresses the level of service at the intersections directly adjacent to the plaza. Every other intersection within about a mile radius will be made worse, especially in the areas that have the largest effect on neighbors. The Planning Board needs to stick with the planning principles that drove the 2005 decision, and vote no on March 17.A project must meet ALL six of the special permit criteria in order for the Planning Board to approve a special permit request. The six special permit criteria are purposely designed to set high standards for non-by-right projects and to protect the local area surrounding the project. Tax revenue, jobs and alleged city-wide benefits are not appropriate considerations for a special permit. The North Shore Crossing proposal clearly fails to meet several of the criteria.
First, the specific site is not an appropriate location for the proposed use, and the character of adjoining uses will be adversely affected. The proposal is for a large regional grocery store, one of the largest traffic generators of any land use, and other retail, in an inappropriate location — between two vibrant neighborhoods, on a street that is home to two elementary schools, a day care facility, a nursing home, an ambulance service, within a half mile of Beverly Hospital and Beverly High School, and bookended by two train stations. This is NOT about Whole Foods. It doesn’t matter if it is Whole Foods or Market Basket or Target or Walmart. What matters is that a high-traffic generating project being squeezed into this inappropriate location would adversely affect surrounding residential neighborhoods.
As neighbors, we do not expect that nothing will ever be built on the site. However, we do expect our city and Planning Board to ensure that impacts are minimized and that whatever is built will maintain the integrity of our neighborhoods. The Planning Board can do that by denying the special permit and promoting a by-right development that would have a substantially lower impact. A by-right plan would fit better with the site, would still bring in tax revenue, would not negate the road improvements, and would have less of an impact on the neighborhood (perhaps similar traffic at weekday peaks, but virtually NO traffic on weekends, and the absence of retail traffic on weekends would be significantly better for our quality of life).
Second, property values in the district will be adversely affected by such a use. There are a number of published scientific studies proving that both traffic volumes and traffic noise have an undeniable negative impact on residential property values. As a result of the increased traffic, this project would decrease property values of all of the homes along Brimbal and Budleigh Avenues. The alleged “Whole Foods Effect” (the claim that Whole Foods increases property values) simply does not apply to this context. This is not an up-and-coming dense urban area that would benefit from the addition of a neighborhood grocery store that most customers would walk to. This is a suburban area where virtually every customer would drive and the surrounding neighborhoods would be negatively impacted by the increased traffic. Further, North Beverly already houses three of the city’s four grocery stores.
Third, undue traffic, nuisance, and unreasonable hazard will result from this project. The expected traffic generation is inconsistent with the residential nature of the immediate area, and vastly disproportionate to the plaza’s size of about 66,000 square feet. The area simply cannot handle the additional trips. The increased traffic this proposal will create will result in traffic backups, increased difficulty for emergency vehicles, increased emissions of local air pollutants and greenhouse gases, increased noise pollution, decreased safety on side streets due to more cut through traffic, and decreased ease of travel to other parts of the city. In addition, the curb cut onto the connector road required for the project would clearly jeopardize the operation and safety of the adjacent $5 million roadway project.
Also, why should we expect a different result here than what we have seen at Route 62 in Danvers and Route 1A and Ellliot Street in Beverly, where traffic studies and peer reviews did not predict the traffic nightmares that resulted? When the reality differs so greatly from the model outcomes, we must question and reassess the models, best practices, and assumptions and balance them with what we see in the real world. This is particularly important here, where the adjacent new road configuration of two roundabouts in a row is uncommon, and driver error is sure to play a significant role.
Even taking the traffic study numbers as correct, the Planning Board still must make a judgment as to whether it amounts to “undue” traffic or not. In making this judgment, it would be irresponsible to simply look at “level of service” at the roundabouts next to the plaza since every other intersection within about a mile radius would be made worse by this project. Also, because each end of Brimbal Avenue is already so bad, we should not be approving projects that are going to make them worse. It would be extremely myopic and irresponsible to just consider the marginal impact of this project in isolation of the context. If the city takes such a view, every project would be approved because their isolated impact is claimed to be “modest”, and the result would be traffic gridlock. We need to consider the cumulative effect of all of the traffic we are adding and acknowledge that the area is simply incapable of handling all of it.
Ultimately, whether or not the roadway configurations can “handle” the traffic from the plaza is an entirely different question than whether or not the traffic is “undue”. While the new road may be able to “handle” the traffic (at least during the 7-year time frame of the traffic study), the important point is that this one 66,000 sqft project would bring with it excessive traffic, eating up much of the capacity of the new road such that it will be unable to handle future by-right development or support further growth. It is “undue” for one small project to consume so much of the capacity of $5 million dollars in road improvements.
Finally, there are valid objections from abutters, particularly residents at Northridge.
I am disheartened that city leadership seems willing to sacrificing an entire section of Beverly for less than 0.3 percent — or 1/400th — of the city budget. I trust the Planning Board will be more deliberate and will put neighborhoods ahead of developers, as the special permit criteria require. As the current proposal fails to meet several of the special permit criteria, I trust the board to deny the special permit.
Jennifer Morris
Beverly

Planning Board Special Meeting – NEW DATE!!!

Important Announcement from Mayor Michael P. Cahill Regarding Cancellation of Planning Board Special Meeting Scheduled for Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 6:30 p.m.

Since a member of the Planning Board is unable to attend the special meeting scheduled for February 24, 2015 due to an unforeseen personal matter, the meeting has been cancelled and further consideration of CEA’s special permit application will be scheduled for the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, March 17, 2015 at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center, 90 Colon Street, Beverly.  The entire Planning Board has been committed to a thorough review of the proposed North Shore Crossing project throughout a public hearing that has spanned six nights.  Therefore, the Chair, in consultation with the Mayor’s Office and the Planning Department, determined that the best course of action is to postpone the matter so that the full Board, which has been so engaged during the entire process, can be present for the final step of deliberating and voting on the application.

It is common practice for the Planning Board to continue a matter under these circumstances.  I fully support the Chair’s decision to have the full complement of the Planning Board present for what will be an important vote.”

 

 

Beverly residents continue to speak out – PB hearing continued 2/10

Beverly residents turned out again in force at last night’s Planning Board meeting in order to talk about their concerns and to ask the Planning Board to deny CEA’s request for a Special Permit.  Here’s is the coverage from this morning’s Salem News: Objections to Brimbal AveSEN 1212015.  The Planning Board is continuing the hearing on February 10th, 6:30pm at the Beverly Senior Center.

Public Hearing Continued – January 21 – More information

PUBLIC HEARING ON BRIMBAL AVE PROPOSED SHOPPING CENTER
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 21st at 7 p.m.
BEVERLY SENIOR CENTER

The Beverly Planning Board has scheduled another Public Hearing to consider public comment on the CEA Group’s proposal to build a 66,000 square foot Shopping Center on Brimbal Ave. This is our final opportunity to express our concerns about the impact this development will have on our neighborhoods. Some things you need to know:

  • The developer is seeking direct access to the Connector Road. This will cause congestion beyond the rotary that will extend onto Route 128, especially during morning and evening commutes.
  • A proposed entrance to the shopping Center on Sohier Rd will create traffic backups to Northridge Homes’ entrance and create a hazardous intersection that will result in dangerous U-turns.
  • New proposals would add a signal at the intersection of Brimbal Ave and Colon St and the widening of Brimbal Ave at Essex St in response to the increased traffic caused by the shopping center.
  • Increased traffic caused by the shopping center will reduce access to Beverly Hospital and delay police, fire and ambulance response times.
  • The proposed Brimbal Ave entrance to the plaza requires left turns into the plaza without a signal even though eliminating unsignalized left turns was the main purpose for the re-design of Brimbal Ave.
  • Traffic studies failed to consider the impact of the Music Theater events and the office buildings and parking for 1,000 cars at Cummings new development on Dunham Rd.
  • An additional 370 vehicles per hour during weekday evening commute and an additional 548 vehicles per hour on Saturday afternoons will be added to Brimbal Ave. This shopping center will add 4,200 vehicles every weekday and 6,436 more vehicles every Saturday onto Brimbal Ave.

 PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND THIS IMPORTANT MEETING AND HELP PROTECT OUR NEIGHBORHOODS!!

Last week several hundred residents attended Tuesday night’s Planning Board pubic hearing on traffic impact.  See the Salem News coverage (NeighborsObject to Brimbal Ave shopping plaza SEN1142015 ) or watch it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZwlsKlAbwg#t=8486).  Not everyone was able to speak so the hearing will be continued on Wed night, January 21 at 7:00pm.

Also note that we are adding new  material to the Documents page of this site.  We are maintaining this as an archive of decisions, plans, petitions, correspondence and the like related to this project.  Please use it as a resource and a way to stay informed.

Public Hearing Tuesday, January 13

PUBLIC HEARING ON BRIMBAL AVE DEVELOPMENT TRAFFIC IMPACT
  TUESDAY JANUARY 13th at 7 p.m. BEVERLY SENIOR CENTER

The Beverly Planning Board has scheduled a Public Hearing to consider the impact of traffic from CEA Group’s proposal to build a 66,000 square foot Shopping Center on Brimbal Ave.  This is our final opportunity to express our concerns about the impact this development will have on our neighborhoods.  ( Planning Board Agenda 1.13.15 )  (the latest from Mayor Cahill: From Mayor Mike Cahill) Some things you need to know:

  • The developer is seeking direct access to the Connector Rd. This will cause congestion beyond the rotary that will extend onto Route 128, especially during morning and evening commutes.
  • A proposed entrance to the shopping Center on Sohier Rd will create traffic backups to Northridge Homes entrance and create a dangerous intersection that will result in dangerous U-turns.
  • New proposals would add a signal at the intersection of Brimbal Ave and Colon St and the widening of Brimbal Ave at Essex St in response to the increased traffic caused by the shopping center.
  • Increased traffic caused by the shopping center will reduce access to Beverly Hospital and delay police, fire and ambulance response times.
  • The proposed Brimbal Ave entrance to the plaza requires left turns into the plaza without a signal even though eliminating unsignaled left turns was the main purpose for the re-design of Brimbal Ave.
  • Traffic studies failed to consider the impact of the Music Theater events and the office buildings and parking for 1,000 cars at Cummings new development on Dunham Rd.
  • An additional 370 vehicles per hour during weekday evening commute and an additional 548 vehicles per hour on Saturday afternoons will be added to Brimbal Ave.  This shopping center will add 4,200 vehicles every weekday and 6,436 more vehicles every Saturday onto Brimbal Ave.

 PLEASE PLAN TO ATTEND THIS IMPORTANT MEETING AND HELP PROTECT OUR NEIGHBORHOODS!!

If you can’t attend write to the Planning Board, 191 Cabot St., Beverly, MA 01915

Still time to be heard on Brimbal Avenue proposal

North Beverly Neighborhood Association member Jennifer Morris Posted: Tuesday, October 21, 2014 11:55 pm Salem Evening News To the editor: Regarding the Brimbal Avenue project, residents throughout the city seem to think the North Beverly Neighborhood Association and the “No” voters “won.” However, it is important that people understand that we are still facing largely the same development plan that so many strongly objected to last fall/winter. Yes there will be no land swap (fortunately), so the city will not acquire the former landfill and build a road on it. That in turn means CEA can only build a smaller plaza. While that is great, the premise of the project remains the same. We are still getting the same style road “improvements” — two roundabouts, a new set of lights and four lanes in areas. They will just be shifted over. They are still out of scale for the area and a severe overreaction to a bad left-hand turn. We are still getting a retail plaza — it will just be on the smaller landfill site. And importantly, despite what the developer previously stated, the plaza will still include Whole Foods, which will draw immense traffic seven days a week at all hours.

planning board hearing october21

200 residents turned out at Oct 21 Planning Board meeting. Photo: David Le, Salem News Staff

The latest traffic studies (from the developer) show that previous estimates of the impact of the plaza were severely underestimated. The plaza is projected to generate an additional 4,500 vehicle trips on weekdays and 6,400 trips on Saturdays, with 55 percent of those trips traveling local roads and Brimbal Avenue rather than the highway. That level of traffic will not only significantly deteriorate our quality of life, it also jeopardizes the operation of the road improvements that the state is spending $5 million in taxpayer money to make. Further, the road improvements do not address the problems on both ends of Brimbal, and so those current backups will grow considerably with the addition of the traffic from the proposed plaza. As traffic already backs up from Dodge Street close to Route 128 at times, with the addition of the plaza, traffic will back up into the brand new roundabouts. The result will be disastrous. Then add the Music Theatre and the new Cummings office buildings on Dunham Road… Traveling on Brimbal Avenue, an important local road that connects different sections of the city, will be unbearable. All because the developer is insistent on including a large regional grocery store, the largest traffic generator of any land use, in an inappropriate location — between two vibrant neighborhoods, on a street that is home to two elementary schools, a day care facility, a nursing home, an ambulance service and within a half mile of Beverly Hospital and Beverly High School. Virtually anything else built on the site would have less of a negative impact. This means that we are still in the same situation as last fall: facing development projects that will drastically change the character neighborhoods and the ease of travel through the city. While the road plans are set and moving forward, there is still time to impact the plaza proposal. The plaza requires a special permit. Special permits must meet six criteria, including not adversely affecting the character of adjoining uses, and not having an undue impact on traffic or property values. We hope the Planning Board makes the correct assessment that this proposal does not meet the criteria. To that end, there will be another public hearing regarding the proposed plaza on Nov. 18, 7pm (place TBD). I encourage everyone with concerns about the plaza to attend and speak. This is not a “North Beverly issue.” This project is going to have severe and widespread impacts across the city of Beverly as motorists look to avoid the newly introduced roadblock. Don’t sit idly by as it happens. Express your thoughts before all the decisions are made.