On April 17th, neighbors and abutters, representing the North Beverly Neighborhood Association, who will suffer irreparable damage if CEA’s North Shore Crossing plaza is realized, have appealed in Land Court the Beverly Planning Board’s March 31 decision to grant a special permit to Steven Cohen and CEA for the project. We, along with three members of the Beverly Planning Board, reject the conclusions of the majority of the Planning Board that this project fulfills all or any special permit criteria. We believe that judicial review of the Board’s decision by the Justices of the Land Court, considering all pertinent information, will lead to a different determination.
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.
In a meeting hosted by the Mayor and Ward 5 Councilor Martin, members of the Brimbal Avenue Advisory Committee and interested neighbors were informed about the current plans for the development of the landfill. The plan (see above) contains the original Whole Foods (one audience member asked why we needed to go through the election if this was always going to be built – good question), a 2-story office building and space for other tenants occupying space less than 5,000 sq feet. Two restaurants are included – one a small sit down (4,500 sq ft) and the other a take out with no drive through (2,800 sq ft.).
The architects for this project are the same who designed Market Street in Lynnfield. The office building contains a one story underground parking garage for employees, and there are 395 additional parking spaces above ground. The Whole Foods is the only building with a rear loading dock for deliveries, all others will receive goods through the front of the building.
CEA will be applying for permits in Mid-September and the first public hearing should be in October. CEA hopes to finish the permitting process by the end of the calendar year. Construction is anticipated to take approximately two years.
There are still a number of unanswered questions (e.g. exact plans for remediating the dump site) and steps to take (e.g., high Planning Board and DOT involvement). We will let you know about all opportunities for public involvement as they occur.
Mayor Cahill informed NBNA tonight, Friday, May 9 that MassDOT has rejected CEA Group’s plan to move the connector road at the Brimbal Avenue Interchange. Instead the City will pursue MassDOT’s recommendation to improve the existing connector road.
The supporting documents can be found in the Documents section: the memo from MassDOT to Mayor Cahill, Mayor Cahill’s response to MassDOT, and a press release.
We are not the Old Guard, former Economic and Community Development Council members, current or former politicians. We are not The Establishment. We are your neighbors. The City gave us an unpleasant surprise recently, and we responded, just like you would.
We are all about knowledge and being informed. We find and show you documents the City has not shared with you. We present those documents with our opinions, but we point you to the documents so you can read them and make up your mind for yourself. Believe us, we want you to Vote NO. But even more we want your vote to be informed, no matter how you vote. It is truly a shame that we have had to take on this role.
We do not have deep pockets. We cannot afford to send you form letters by mail, even though mail is the most sure way to reach you. Instead we print flyers and walk them to your door.
If the City ever surprises your neighborhood the way they surprised ours, we will be there to lend a hand, because we know what that is like. Will you help us tomorrow? We need your help!
Remember to Vote NO on February 8!
Here is an editorial from Amy Martyn. It describes the long troubled history of the landfill where CEA Group would like to move the connector road, the news from last week and the other side’s failure to update their statements about the special election, and some information that raises concerns about the environmental status of the landfill.
One week ago, Mayor Cahill made a long-awaited statement about the upcoming special election on the rezoning of Brimbal Avenue and the subsequent land swap between CEA Group and the state. He made the statement shortly after a meeting with the Brimbal Ave Advisory Committee, during which meeting the history of the project, its problems, and its shaky future were articulated by the city’s engineer, Rod Emery. It turns out a road, any road, built on the landfill at 140 Brimbal Avenue, is likely to sink.
You don’t have to do very much reading to discover that this information should not have been a surprise to anyone. In fact, the MGL Ch. 21E Report Site Evaluation from 2004, here, provides a long history of the property. (See page 89 and the the conclusions and recommendations that begin on page 96.) In 1971 a feasibility study was conducted to build a Stop & Shop there which concluded that the land “is considered unsuitable for supporting foundations or floor slab” due to its “compressibility.” The engineers who conducted the study recommended geo-piering or excavation, and the supermarket was never built. Five years later, in 1976, another feasibility study was conducted to construct a Registry of Motor Vehicles over the landfill, and settlement of the loosely packed debris was again an issue, particularly for building a parking lot, noting that “total settlements up to a foot could occur.” In fact, the recommendation was to provide a gravel lot, because a paved parking lot would require “a continual maintenance program” and frequent repair due to the cracking from settlement. (At this point you are probably thinking, as I am, “No wonder no one’s built anything there!”) In 1980 there was yet another plan, this time to construct medical buildings on the landfill, and the same settlement issues arose with stronger language. Though it is not the first study to note that any building ought to occur within 100 feet of Brimbal Avenue due to the fill depth, it states unequivocally that, “If any structures are located anywhere other than near Brimbal Avenue…premium costs will be substantially greater.” Furthermore, because the parking area was planned for the center of the site, where the fill was greater than twenty feet deep, the report notes that even when compression measures are taken, settlement “would be expected to occur over a long period of time.” In summary: there is a lot of loosely packed debris in the Brimbal Avenue landfill. Putting a building or a road on the land will require complicated and costly engineering solutions.
I don’t claim to be unbiased—I am writing an opinion piece, after all—and I will be the first one to tell you I was disappointed when, in light of the DOT approaching Mayor Cahill in December about creating an alternate plan because building the road on the landfill just wasn’t a sound idea, the mayor still asked the city for a ‘yes’ vote this Saturday. And though I believe that the land swap is the wrong choice for the city as a whole, I respect the mayor’s position in particular with regards to the relationship City Hall has developed with CEA Group during the Scanlon administration and for the working relationship he has with the city councilors who came out ahead of him in partnership with CEA Group on the Better For Beverly website urging a ‘yes’ vote. So you can imagine my shock and disappointment over the last week when a spate of mailings began arriving in my mailbox and in my neighbors’ mailboxes and letters were published in this newspaper that not only spread misinformation but directly contradicted facts that were presented by the mayor himself and by his advisors.
First, there was the letter from Mr. Cohen that attempted to “correct” public perception about the landfill. Instead of acknowledging the soil analyses that Jacobs Engineering did last summer that found material in the landfill that would likely need disposal as hazardous waste, he claims that assertions that there is hazardous material in the landfill are “totally unfounded.” Citing a letter he received from the DEP in 2009 that granted his application to close the landfill, which is hardly an “exhaustive investigation,” he notes in his column that the DEP found the land to be safe enough for a child care center, but he does not tell us that the land is not safe enough on which to build residences without specialized gas migration controls because of the levels of tetrachloroethylene gas leaking from the landfill. Similarly, he leaves out the part where the DEP notes that Northridge—a residence—appears to be built on the oldest part of that landfill. Interestingly, though he received permission from the DEP to close the landfill, and had three years from December 2009 in which to do it, the landfill remains unchanged. But dismissing the soil borings report performed by the city’s engineers and the environmental assessment done for the city in 2007 is just the beginning. Moving onto the structural and engineering concerns of the landfill, he dismisses out of hand the DOT’s analysis that the land will sink, stating that they do not have “great experience with these specialized issues” deferring instead to his own geotechnical firm of Haley & Aldrich, who, incidentally, performed the feasibility studies I cited above, and based on past analysis of the land, seem inclined to agree with the DOT. But what does the DOT know about building roads? Where Mr. Cohen could have extended graciousness towards the administration that has done so much to advance his development, including adapting the road to fit his site plans (see the email from Rod Emery to Mayor Scanlon from 4/29/13: “The Cohen Project. We are spending a fair amount of time solving their access and traffic issues…I am spending some resources that I feel should be on their dime.”), and could have stood together with Mayor Cahill in favor of the ‘yes’ vote, acknowledging that there are two roadway proposals that need vetting, he claims instead that “relocating the connector road is clearly viewed as the superior, preferred design.” In spite of their apparent agreement over a ‘yes’ vote, Mr. Cohen took his grievances to the op-ed page and publicly positioned himself against his neighbors and our mayor.
One of the most important truths that came out of Mayor Cahill’s statement was the assurance that the city will still receive the $5 million MassWorks grant for building a viable road, regardless of the location. A hotly contested piece of the rezoning debate, Mayor Cahill put to rest the fear that the city would lose the grant money if the ‘no’ vote stopped the land swap. Now explain to me if you can how so many of us in Beverly received a mailing from my neighbor Bruce Nardella just a few days ago stating, “If the rezoning does not pass, the state contributes nothing towards improvements” when our mayor had just a few days earlier said that the opposite is true. What is the agenda of our former City Council President? Is he purposefully misinforming, or simply misinformed? Even Mr. Scanlon, who hasn’t quite left his post, chimed in with his swansong to Exit 19—“no other interchange in the world quite like it”—but could not, in spite of his ‘yes’ vote, come up with a single reason for the land swap, and obscured the message from the new mayor, which is that safety improvements will come with either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ vote.
Why are people who agree with the mayor on the ‘yes’ vote undermining his message and attempt to create transparent discourse with the public? Why, as a city, are having such growing pains moving into this new style of governance?
Saturday’s election represents the beginning of a new era of in Beverly. In defense of democracy, transparency, and our new mayor, I’m voting ‘no.’
All documents referenced in this letter can be found in the Documents section the savebrimbalave.org website.