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Opponents of Beverly Walgreens proposal at historic site hire lawyer

Posted by Justin Rice  January 18, 2012 01:28 PM

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A group of about 30 Beverly residents against the demolition of a building at the corner of Dodge and Conant streets that was constructed around 1715 have hired a lawyer in an effort to prevent a Walgreens from going on the site.

“We know something will happen there but we would like to have the historic site still remain and let them do whatever they want behind there,” said William J Coughlin, former Beverly city councilor, who is part of the group that hired the lawyer. “Basically we want something with a low volume of traffic if we could get it. We definitely don’t want Walgreens.

“Walgreens at the corner of Rantoul Street and Elliot Street is an eyesore and the city is trying to revitalize Rantoul. They set us back many years. We don’t want a building like we have down there. They don’t have a bit of greenery or anything.”

The building at 48 Dodge Street, which was part of Beverly’s earliest settlement, is significant to Beverly’s Historic District Commission, which passed a one-year demolition delay last May in hopes of convincing the owners to work toward preservation.

The owners of the building that is currently occupied by Coldwell Banker recently submitted a bid to take down the building with the Beverly Planning Board and have also recently secured a letter of intent from the national drugstore chain. The proposal calls for a clapboard New England style facade that is unlike a generic big box store.

The current building is functionally obsolete and unrentable, according to Jeff Rhuda of Symes Associates, which manages the property.

Rhuda said the only permit from the Planning Board the developers need to secure is one that would allow them to have fewer parking spaces than the city requirement.

“It can arranged in such a way that we don’t require any special permits and everything would be a site plan review only, which we meet all the criteria for,” he said. “The most important thing is the site will be redeveloped whether it’s a multi-use development or a Walgreens.  There are certain property rights the property enjoys and we’re going to exercise them.”

But Coughlin, who lives near the proposed Walgreens, said he believes even though the building is privately owned on private land that the city will be able to lean on the developers to make sure the development is suitable for the area.

“We have a lot of influence here,” he said before adding, “There are ways of tickling their toes and putting their feet under the fire.”

Coughlin said Rhuda’s insistence that the property is going to be developed no matter what insulted the more than 100 community members who attended a Planning Board hearing on the topic at the Beverly Public Library last night.  

“He treated us as if we had nothing to say about the whole thing and that’s not so,” Coughlin said.  

The Planning Board plans to continue the hearing at 9 p.m. on Feb. 21 at the Council on Aging at the Senior Center.

Justin A. Rice can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com.

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