Archive | September, 2013

Re-development in Peabody should always be connected to responsibility

25 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

It was a good meeting last night at the West Branch Library. A night during which residents were presented research by a consultant on how we can revitalize Peabody’s downtown, and then asked their opinions on what should go in currently developable properties.

But there was also a moment near the end the meeting that summed up a major challenge we face as we go through the process of not only revitalizing parts of our community, but also reinvigorating our economic engine.

When the presentation was over, and all of the brainstorming done, Community Development Office official Blair Haney made a comment that spoke to something that’s unseen by many, but gotten us into past messes when it comes to development. Essentially, what Mr. Haney told the audience was that — in order to move forward — we need the full cooperation of the Peabody City Council and the residents when it comes to granting developers special permits.

Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I don’t think Mr. Haney was talking about granting special permits to build everything and anything developers want. After all, haven’t we recently seen the ugly side of blind cooperation when it comes to many developers in Peabody?

But it should cause us to pause, think, and ensure that we don’t get fooled again. This is indeed a cautionary tale.

Wasn’t it unchallenged “cooperation” that got us that ugly condo complex on Walnut Street, and isn’t it unchallenged “cooperation” that is causing the residents of the Winona Street neighborhood near Route 1 major headaches? I could go on and on about developers maximizing profits by building cheap, ugly projects,  grossly violating the terms special permits, and not caring about residents’ property rights.

But let’s spare you of  those gory details, and say that I don’t think there are many residents who don’t agree that we need an economic rebirth in Peabody. After all, we have a lot to pay for these days, and bringing more responsible development to the city will help us pay for capital improvements. At the same time, it would stabilize the residential tax rate. More businesses mean a lot more commercial tax revenue, which in turn means that residents aren’t taxed to death. As a result, we’d find a sane way to pay for a much-need new middle school, and flood mitigation, and all of the other improvements necessary for our civic infrastructure.

Economic development would be a great thing for Peabody, but until we get smart about it and get the right kind of development, a request for our full cooperation with developers sends chills up the spines of residents, who have had their quality of life trampled on far too often.

As a city councilor, I would most-definitely be pro-business and pro-economic development. But the rights of residents still need to come first, and those developers with a track record of violating their special permits can’t be given more chances to mess this all up again. It can no longer be a case of everything goes in Peabody, not in our downtown, and not out on Route 1.

What we need is responsible and well-planned out community re-development, and for Peabody to partner only with reputable developers to get this all done. If it’s  not the right thing to do for a neighborhood, city councilors should never fear  saying “no.”

That’s what those residents who attended that excellent meeting last night want, and that’s what they and our city deserves.

Signs of our times: More ugly billboards on the way

24 Sep

By Bob Croce, EOP Publisher

While we’ve all been focused on the battle against the giant billboard eyesore on Lowell Street near Route 1, outdoor advertising companies have been lining up to erect even greater monstrosities in other Peabody locations. If you think that the static sign next to the Subway sub shop infringes on your quality of life, wait until you see what’s about to happen elsewhere in Ward 5.

Two giant, flashing digital billboards have been approved for Route 1, and now comes a third, which will soon go before the city council for approval. Welcome to Peabody’s version of the Las Vegas Strip.

Cove Outdoor Advertising is hoping to win city council approval to erect a 14 by 48 feet digital sign on Route 128 near Jubilee Drive. The city, meanwhile, stands to make $25K annually on each one of these eyesores. I know that Peabody needs revenue right now, but are we willing to destroy our community aesthetically for this sort of incremental revenue?

It’s definitely time for the city council to come up with some guidelines on how many of these we’ll allow in our community.  It’s also important that they ask some serious questions when Cove comes before them for a permit on this latest sign.

Here’s the link to the full article in the Salem News.

Please let me know what you think in the comments section.