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Council set to sign off on a billboard for Bourbon Street?

4 Apr

 

blank-billboardBy Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

If you live on Bourbon Street, and found the giant billboard around the corner and next to the Subway on Lowell Street offensive, get ready to be even more annoyed closer to your front door.

CBS Outdoor will go before the Peabody City Council on April 29th to seek a special permit to erect a giant, electronic billboard at 8 Bourbon Street. The billboard madness continues.

If you live in that neighborhood, call your ward councilor, Joel Saslaw, and tell him to stop voting to approve these eyesores. Mr. Saslaw, after all, has already approved THREE of these new signs in the ward since taking office in January.

Billboard being removed, but only after city cuts a deal

30 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

After several months of hand-wringing, end runs, and double reverses, the Peabody City Council, Mayor Ted Bettencourt, and the city’s legal eagles have found a way to have that now infamous 92-foot tall monstrosity of a billboard removed from the corner of Lowell Street and Route 1.

Pole dance: The city has cut a deal to have this monstrosity removed

City has cut a deal to have this monstrosity removed

The Eye has learned that the giant sign, which was wrongly placed near Lowell Street next to the Subway sub shop (instead of well behind the shop as dictated by special permit), will soon come down. But before you chalk this up as a victory for our city’s leaders, understand that the enormous pole is only coming down because the city is playing let’s make a deal with Total Outdoor Corp.

That’s right, we’re hearing through the grapevine that – instead of holding its ground and fighting it out in court – the city council has promised to approve another Total Outdoor Corp billboard at another location in exchange for the Lowell Street monstrosity being removed.

We’re not sure where that new location is, but so much for standing our ground. I mean, it’s pretty clear that Total Outdoor Corp disregarded the terms of its special permit by planting that thing in the wrong place. Right?

So, now the question is … why are we appeasing Total Outdoor Corp just to get them to remove their mistake?

Instead of having our city run these days by the people we elected, are we instead being run by lawyers?

Developers continue to pretty much get their way on everything. The beat goes on out on Route 1, and makes us wonder what other hush, hush deals are being struck while the quality of life of residents is infringed upon.

This wild west mentality continues, and developers simply have no worries that our city council will do anything to stop them.

And why should they? After all, if these developers screw up, they can always simply bargain with the city’s legal team.

Bikeway snowed under as city chooses not to plow a popular recreation area

7 Mar

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Now that Mother Nature has helped finally clear all of our side streets from the icy leftovers of a horrible job of snow removal this winter in Peabody, some memories remain of the carelessness  by contracted plow jockeys and the decisions made by the DPW.

bikeway (2) (403x537)If you want to walk your dog or escape cabin fever with a little exercise, don’t even think of doing so by taking a jaunt on Peabody’s bikeway.

After all, sources tell The Eye that major sections of the bikeway, especially in West Peabody, remain icy and snow covered.

Apparently, and even though the bikeway is paved from end to end, the city decided to not plow what has become a very nice recreation area for residents.

So much for being able to exercise or commune with nature in the winter months.

The photo above shows what I mean. It was taken along a stretch of bikeway between West Peabody and the Middleton line.

As you can see, people are still trying to use it, which means that the city not plowing the bikeway is also turning into a safety hazard.

 

On bad snow jobs, signs of our times, and Democratic justice

19 Feb

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Cleaning out the Rolodex of the mind today while wondering when we’ll ever see the grass again …

Wanted to start by thanking two neighbors who last week helped push out my car after I slid into a snowbank at the corner of Curwen and Jordan Roads.  The reason I got stuck? Well, despite six inches of snow on the ground, the city’s DPW still hadn’t deployed any plows.

Of course, just as they pushed me out, a plow did come by and almost run over the female neighbor who was helping me.  Fortunately, she got out of the way just in time. But when we looked up to curse at the driver, we noticed he was texting on his phone and couldn’t see us flipping him the bird.

If you haven’t noticed, city snow removal hasn’t exactly been stellar this winter. Many of the city’s side streets are in deplorable condition, and there are dug up lawns everywhere. Might be time for the city to evaluate some of these private contractor plowing clowns, and not offer them anymore work.

Sign us up for the moratorium!

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

Mayor Ted Bettencourt

I have to laugh when I hear city councilors, and even Mayor Ted Bettencourt now talking about putting a “moratorium” on special permits for new billboards. I mean, these are the same guys who got us into this problem with billboards in the first place, right? Most recently, the mayor sent a letter to the council saying enough was enough and that we should now stop approving these special permits. Of course, he sent this letter after begging the council for two more billboards on city land that netted us a cool $50K in permitting fees.

By the way, if the mayor and the city council wants a “moratorium” on billboards, they’ll likely need to go back and change the zoning again. And, just for the record, the reason we’re being overrun with these roadside eyesores is because the city council and the mayor worked together to change the zoning in the first place to allow unlimited billboards on Route 1 and elsewhere. Don’t blame the billboard companies for this getting out of control. As Bill Shakespeare once wrote, “The fault is not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

Bring on the clowns … there have to be clowns

We hear that Stonewood Tavern owner Sal Palumbo will go before the city council on Monday night to not only renew, but to expand his entertainment license. Now he wants comedians and clowns for kids birthday parties to go along with the 8-piece R&B and classic rock bands. It seems that these days Stonewood wants every form of entertainment. Well, short of strippers and … 3-piece jazz bands, we guess.

Sweet caucus justice by a legendary Peabody Democrat 

Mr. Democrat, Dick Jarvis

Mr. Democrat, Dick Jarvis

Hats off to my “You Make The Call” partner Dick Jarvis for holding some scoundrels accountable at last week’s Democratic city caucuses. City Dems met to elect delegates to June’s Democratic State Convention, and Jarvis managed some justice when it came to those Democrats who refused to support the ONLY Democrat on the ballot last spring in a special election to replace the late, great State Rep Joyce Spilliotis.

When the name of someone who openly supported unenrolled candidate Dave Gravel in the special election over Democrat Beverley Dunne was put into nomination as a delegate from Ward 3 last week, Jarvis opposed the nomination, and his claim was backed up by  “Rule 20″ in the state Democratic Party charter. Essentially Rule 20 states that you can’t be a delegate if you openly work against the party’s nominee in a previous election. her name was taken out of nomination.

File this one under sweet revenge. It was very interesting too that once Jarvis blocked this particular delegate wannabe, no one dare put Councilor At-Large Tom Gould’s name into nomination. Gould, as you’ll recall, also supported Gravel.

Dick and I will be discussing these and other issues on tonight’s live “You Make the Call Show,” 8-9 p.m., on PAT Channel 99. Please join in and give us a call.

Did you hear the one about the Stonewood Tavern owner who met with residents?

31 Jan

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Maybe Sal Palumbo will stand up in front of the neighbors tomorrow morning, and say: “Hello ladies and germs. A funny thing happened to me on the way over to the community meeting. Remember that promise to cut back on our entertainment at Stonewood Tavern? Well, um, well …”

Mr. Palumbo, owner of Stonewood Tavern,  told the Salem Snooze this week that he was holding a community meeting at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning to “try and make everyone happy.” And how he will tell neighbors “how we have cut back on our entertainment.”

Meanwhile, back at City Hall …

Palumbo, who many feel is already operating well beyond the stipulations of his entertainment license, has applied to expand said license to allow … wait for it …

Comedy shows.

I guess large, disruptive bands weren’t enough when it came to disturbing the peace and quality of life of Lynnfield Street neighborhood residents.

By the way, Sal will also ask the city council to give him permission to hire clowns for birthday parties. Insert your own one-liner here________________________________

For those who aren’t up-to-date on this issue, back when Palumbo made plans for the neighborhood bistro, and successfully revitalized a dilapidated property, he told us all that he was only looking for a quiet little three-piece jazz band to play occasionally within the original foot print of the restaurant.

What the neighborhood got instead was the fabulous Amber Room, where three-piece jazz bands have been replaced by raucous 8-piece R&B bands and classic rock groups. Lynnfield Street now has the feel of Bourbon Street, and the neighbors are feeling like Sal pulled a fast one.

Residents wonder whose side Ward 1 Councilor is on.

Residents wonder whose side Ward 1 Councilor is on.

With the exception of outspoken councilors Anne Manning-Martin and Barry Sinewitz, the Peabody City Council hasn’t been much help in bringing Stonewood to heel when it comes to its entertainment. Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne, who must be looking forward to the comedy amateur night at Stonewood, has seemingly been more on Sal’s side than on the side of the neighbors who elected him to be their representative.

Maybe if the neighborhood finds a candidate next time to unseat Osborne, Sal can hire Barry as one of those birthday party clowns.

Billboards gone wild: Time to push pause, decide how many we’ll allow in Peabody

12 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

billboardThe end-of-the-year grab for riches is on, and tonight the Peabody City Council will be charged with either approving or denying another one of those unsightly electronic billboards for Route 1.

I say “grab for riches,” since someone who knows tells me that – once everyone takes their little cut — the total annual windfall for each one of these roadside eyesores could be more than $500,000.

These mammoth signs – which are “blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ our mind” – mean big bucks for Route 1 property owners and developers, the sign companies themselves, the city when it comes to permitting fees, and who knows who else will have their palms “greased.”

Instead of worrying about the threat of court challenges, the city council should tonight be voting based only on the impact these gigantic billboards will have on the quality of life of residents, driver safety, and the aesthetics of our community.

The vultures are so aggressive on this one that tonight the city council will hear testimony on two separate special permits for what would essentially be bumping billboards right next door to each other. One hearing is for a billboard at 47 Newbury at a small piece of property being developed in front of the Springhill Suites hotel. The other one is less than a bag of cash throw away at 55 Newbury in front of the Sonic Restaurant. Since state regulations dictate that the two billboards would be too close to each other, the city council can’t legally approve both.

The only responsible thing for the city council to do tonight would be to vote to approve neither until we can finally come up with some rules, and a civic vision on how many giant signs we’ll allow in our berg. Otherwise, Route 1 will end up looking like the Las Vegas strip.

By the way, this isn’t about trying to ban billboards, but it is about having some sort of control on how many we’ll allow and where. Another digital billboard is currently being installed at 71 Newbury St. behind Santarpio’s and the council did approve a digital billboard last week for 200 Jubilee Dr. (behind the Extended Stay Hotel. It’s already getting out of control.

The proposal for the billboard at 47 Newbury is being presented by World Realty Trust, which has partnered with another recently familiar developer. Total Outdoor Corp, currently in court with Peabody over the notorious Lowell Street billboard would construct the sign at 47 Newbury.

The city gets $25K for the permit on each of these signs, but should everything be for sale here without first understanding what the impact will have on our landscape?

It’s time to push pause here for a moment and decide how many of these we’ll allow, and where. Otherwise, we’ll continue on this path of haphazard community development, which over the long run is going to have a major and negative impact on resident quality of life.

Time to finally get serious about the vision for downtown revitalization

10 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

SquareSo far, we’ve seen baby steps and a piece meal approach to the revitalization of downtown Peabody. But we remain without a master plan for development, and without true visionaries to lead when it comes to getting us to a place where Peabody Square is no longer a ghost town at 8 p.m. on a Saturday night.

The problem we face in moving this forward was again on full display this past week when a developer came before the city council with a plan to jam 10 apartments into an old office building at 98 Main Street. During the debate, there was talk about a lack of parking, which is a major concern overall as we try to bring people back to the square. But there was also talk about what the vision should be for all future downtown development.

Many councilors argued against creating more apartments (these ones with future Section 8 housing potential), and for the need to think in terms of mixed-use development (e.g., residential on the top floors, commercial space on the bottom). Thankfully, the bid for a special permit at 98 Main went down to defeat with a 5-5 vote.

The issue at 98 Main is simply one symptom of a much larger problem.

We have no overall strategic plan/vision for development, but even if we did … we have no one to lead it. Community Development’s push and praise for the developer’s plan at 98 Main certainly shows that no one there has the skills, experience, or juice to lead the mammoth undertaking of bringing economic life back to the downtown.

Although I believe and support Mayor Ted Bettencourt when he tells us that revitalization of downtown continues to be a focal point of his legacy, I also think the Mayor needs to do what many of us have been urging since he was first sworn in almost two years ago:

He needs to enlist more skilled movers and shakers to help us with this. We need an experienced redevelopment “czar” with unprecedented power to get things done, including overseeing a comprehensive, step-by-step vision. But first, we need that plan, which right now is beyond the current competencies of those who lead our Community Development efforts.

It’s time to look at what other communities have done here, and see which models we can adopt.

But we’re not getting there by allowing developers to jam 10 tiny apartments into a space that might be better for retail space, and the types of businesses that make Peabody Square a destination rather than a pass through.

Those who think that bringing more people to live downtown is a key to our future success here are wrong and misguided. We already have thousands of people living within a half-mile radius of Peabody Square, and what has that gotten us? More barber shops, nail salons, and liquor stores.

Meanwhile, Salem is becoming the restaurant capital of the North Shore, and a destination for people looking for a night out or a day of boutique shopping. By now, we should all be a little tired of the claim that Salem can do this and we can’t because Salem has the built in advantages such as the waterfront. Most of the new shops and restaurants in Salem are down along Washington Street, which isn’t on the water.

Salem has been able to revitalize its downtown because, thanks to its civic leaders, it came up with a comprehensive vision designed to encourage the right kind of businesses downtown, and Mayor Kim Driscoll is using her power to ensure that it gets done right.

Mayor Bettencourt has the opportunity to now do the same.

Mr. Mayor, I support you, but it’s time to bring in some more talent when it comes to your Community Development department.  Let’s find out who those redevelopment visionaries are, and let’s hire them to help us with something that would become your major legacy piece as mayor.

Putting tiny apartments on Main bad for downtown revitalization plans

4 Dec

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

Well, here we go again.

Just when we all thought that we were taking steps in the right direction when it came to revitalizing Peabody’s downtown, our Community Development Department becomes an accomplice again in a familiar game where greedy developers to do whatever they want, wherever they want.

Developers will be before the city council tomorrow night seeking a special permit to shoe-horn 10 one-bedroom, 500-square foot apartments into an old office building at 98 Main Street. That’s great, just what we need downtown, more potential and transient Section 8 housing.

When will this all stop? When will the leaders in Community Development understand it’s not just about development?

It’s about responsible development.

I say this already knowing that Community Development has given its blessing to this ill-advised project. I say ill-advised not because there’s no parking, and not because I’m against residential development in the downtown.

It’s ill-advised because this is prime commercial space, where we should be encouraging mixed-use and the type of development that will make our downtown as vibrant as Salem’s. If we’re going to go the mixed-use route, with shops, restaurants, and other businesses on the first floor, and residential living spaces above, I’m all for that. But these residential living spaces need to be higher end, and be able to attract people who actually have disposable income to spend downtown.

I say all of this while recognizing the need for affordable housing. But our downtown will never become what we want it to be by putting these types of units right in the heart of what needs to become Peabody’s downtown Renaissance.

Call them apartments, if you want, but what’s being proposed here isn’t much grander than your average rooming house.

The city council doesn’t just need to ask serious questions tomorrow night. It needs to reject this plan for the good of the city’s revitalization efforts.

Stonewood owner asked to play by rules; Councilors Manning-Martin, Sinewitz shine

14 Nov

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

The Peabody City Council – at least two courageous members – told the owner of the Stonewood Tavern last night that he just had to follow the rules. Sal Palumbo had originally planned to go before the council to “amend” his entertainment license to allow him to play host to bands at a nightclub he built as an addition to his successful restaurant on Lynnfield Street.

Councilor Barry Sinewitz

Councilor Barry Sinewitz

Problem was, he was looking to expand an entertainment license for a nightclub that he erected without city council approval. The city council back in July of 2011 approved a special permit for a 95-seat restaurant, which since opening had been a welcomed addition to the neighborhood.

But suddenly, several months ago, Mr. Palumbo added on a nightclub and began rocking the foundations of South Peabody with 8-piece bands. Last night, after understanding that his attempt to amend his entertainment license was going to fail, Palumbo requested that his petition be withdrawn without prejudice. The council agreed 9-0 to allow him to withdraw his petition, but not before Ward 6 Councilor Barry Sinewitz, and Councilor At-Large Anne Manning-Martin gave him a little rock performance of their own.

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

Councilor Anne Manning-Martin

“You went wild over there. Wild,” Manning-Martin said while addressing Palumbo, and … she was just only warming up. “You’re a businessman doing business in Peabody, who in the near future needs to be kept on a short leash.”

Manning-Martin went on to say that she would like to ask the licensing board whether Stonewood had also violated it’s liquor license by opening the nightclub. “You should be fined,” she added.

Sinewitz was a little kinder, yet still made sure to let Palumbo know that his end-run around the process and the city council won’t be tolerated.  “What I wonder is whether he’s going to have bands there this Friday and Saturday night,” asked Sinewitz, who later made a motion for an emergency preamble for Mayor Ted Bettencourt to sign,  which requests that the police department visit the Stonewood this weekend to ensure that no live bands will be performing.

While Manning-Martin and Sinewitz handed out what seemed like the perfect response in this situation. other councilors leaned more toward sending Mr. Palumbo for a timeout in chair in his dining room. Ward 1 Councilor Barry Osborne, who really owns some of the responsibility here for not letting Palumbo know that he needed to bring his nightclub plans before the city council, sounded at times like he wanted to give the Stonewood owner a hug while telling him to please be good from now on.

Most of the other council members were totally silent.

Great work by Manning-Martin and Sinewitz.

As Sinewitz put it perfectly: “This isn’t a witch hunt. It’s about following the rules.”

Please join us tonight for live ‘You Make The Call’ show

13 Nov

SAMPlease join my partner Dick Jarvis and me tonight as we discuss the Peabody issues of the day on a new, live “You Make The Call Show,” 8-9 p.m., on PAT Channel 99.

This is our first new show since the election, and on our list of topics tonight will be the latest with the expansion and entertainment license of the Stonewood Tavern in South Peabody, the issue of using public schools for voting, and much more.

It’s always open lines on YMTC, so we’ll entertain and comment on whatever is on your mind.

Please tune in and give us a call. You can also follow us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/calldickandbob

- Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

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