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.
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.