Newburyport Train Station – We’ve done it!

Metzy's Dream

Thank you everyone for making it possible for $30,000 in pledges to come to pass!

Let’s savor that victory today,

But tomorrow, it’s time to pony up!    My moths will be hacking furiously but too bad.

Pledge drives are great on paper but now comes the follow through.

Metzy’s Taquieria will be busy – they’ll be meeting with the MBTA, the finance companies and spending hours how to make this space work, and of course, the actual construction.

Our job will be to cover their back.

And when we see the place opening up, let’s patronize them as much as possible!     If you use the train, their wraps are just the thing to take with you, and if you’re on the rail trail, come on down a little further and grab a bite.      It worked for Haley’s Ice Cream - revitalizing a remote restaurant into a place where it’s tough getting a parking space (or even a bike rack spot!); it will work here too.

They need a secure base before the tourists can fill in the financial gaps.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Art & Culture, Businesses, finances, Health and wellness, Planning, Quality of Life, Renovation, Tourism | Leave a comment

Why all that wasted time and energy!?!

Overstuffed file cabinetThe way it has worked for decades in Newburyport, City Hall employees get to take time out from their jobs to attend seminars and workgroups.       They get a tasty lunch, paperwork on how things are done properly per the regulations in Massachusetts; and when they come back to Clipper City – then they stuff all that paper into a file cabinet.

They’ve done their job – and no worse the wear.  It isn’t long before they just go back to doing what they’ve always done in this city: the Newburyport Way.

It’s bad enough and more often than not over the years, their colloquial stubbornness has caused us to lose out on additional funding, but then it gets worse.

City Hall periodically presents public hearings to get particular ‘plans’ agreed upon by the citizens.       Overstuffed file cabinetHundreds of people sacrifice time out of their busy lives to make sure these programs are vetted out right.        After more vetting through the City Council and finally making it past the Mayor’s desk; they’re supposed to be implemented by the City Hall employees and supported by the citizens.

More often than not though, the temptation is to ignore it, do things the same old way and just stuff the PLAN (whatever that plan is) back into the file cabinet so it can be forgotten.

The usual cause is because these PLANS become inconvenient to the way things are always being done, or get in the way of a political agenda, or it’s going to cost some effort and time and money.     You even find the Corner Office tempted to do the same thing as the City Hall employees: forgo the Plans!

Well it turns out that the acquisition of the Colby Farm Properties is now damn inconvenient and yet, it is supported again and again by multiple plans!

Why all that wasted time and energy if we’re not going to follow them?

The 2001 Master Plan.    One of the primary objectives is to preserve open space to protect habitat and preserve scenic views with an overall objective to increase the amount of protected public and private open space.

2002 Community Preservation Act.   This smart growth tool is for the purpose of preserving open space and developing outdoor recreational facilities.

2004 Strategic Land Use Plan.    One of its chief priorities is to strengthen Low Street’s visual quality and image as a major entry corridor into the City with the intention of transferring development elsewhere so that the upper areas of Low Street remain undeveloped.

2012 Open Space and Recreation Plan.    Goal number one is to protect lands of public conservation and recreational interest including the city’s  defining scenic heritage landscapes…with the objective to identify and secure funding for land acquisition and protection.      And of highlighted importance is the acquisition of athletic fields.

Colby Farms meets all these ‘Plans’ !!!

The abutters want it left open.      It is another sensitive component of an area that is supposed to be left off being developed. (The SLUC was eyeing the traffic circle which we are now seeing with the 40R development).    It is a scenic view, one of the few left of the upper Common Pasture; and the best thing of all, there is a tremendous potential for much needed athletic fields.    In addition, one lot far to the west takes the brunt of the off-flow of the Landfill and should have a preservation restriction on it.

So, what is the problem?      The Open Space Committee spent so much on Curzon Mills, and now it looks like a piece of large property might become available – and the fund has been depleted!!!    And we have a mindset in City Hall (the Mayor?) to abandon all these plans for the vain promise of more tax revenue.*

We need the Mayor to get behind this acquisition so the Planning Office can prepare short-gap funding; we need the City Council to approve it; and we need the CPC to understand this is not just ‘another’ open space request.

I will be speaking during the public comment on Monday at City Council.     And we need others to do the same.     The City has 120 days to make up its mind before the property owner converts the agricultural land into a development.        The Park Commission has requested CPA seed money so that outside grants can be obtained but the CPC won’t make the final decisions until May and June, and the City Council won’t even see that money request until July & August.       Thus, this must be impressed before all our elected officials so the process of preservation can begin.        We need people to speak to their elected officials, write editorials and attend hearings.


-P. Preservationist

* Anyone knows that the amount of tax money earned when you build residential units, translates into the need for three to four times that amount to fund the increased infrastructure and services!      Why do you think Newbury is constantly teetering toward receivership?   They heard the same siren and are now financially hurting!








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Newburyport Train Station – We’re getting close!

If I put my money into something – I want it to count!

No, I don’t want the money back – but that will happen if we can’t reach the goal.

The Train Station when NewWe need Metzy’s to revitalize a sorely lacking facility in our city – especially as it stands at the gateway for so many visitors on the trains.

But I am repeating myself – so take a look at my previous post as to the importance of revitalizing the Newburyport Train Station.

They need the $30,000 in seed money and then the financiers and the restaurant owner take it from there.      They are closing in on that amount but they are not there yet.

I’m afraid that far too many, burned out by our winter, are elsewhere (like in warmer climates!); and the normal crowd that stream by the Plum Island Airport are simply unaware.     Though I beat them to the punch, I am so glad that the Daily News did a major feature on the effort.     But we need more people to spread the story.Metzy's Dream

So, while you’re doing that, I’m going to pony up and make another donation – I’m urging those who read this blog and other links that see this post, to put in just a little more.      I’ve got my wallet moths coughing up a fit, but this will mean so much for our city especially as the summer approaches and the Clipper City Rail Trail, Phase II begins construction in 2016.

Please access their donation page and let us put the amount over the top!

-P. Preservationist



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CPA – The Winner’s Circle

After looking at this huge list, I have chosen projects that come to $951,140.      They won’t really be in the winner’s circle because they will not get what they really need. And of course, I’m not on the Community Preservation Committee, nor on the City Council and certainly am not the Mayor.   After all the hard work, the applicants will in all likelihood be given just a fraction.

My biggest advice is to start accessing local businesses’ largess, regional and national grants; and yes, even some politicking on the state and federal level.       2008 has thankfully grown distant and the funding so desperately needed is quietly becoming available again.      It just takes time and, in most of these grants, a lot harder hoops to jump over plus the added pressure of competing submissions from around the state and/or country.

Believe me, I totally empathize – I’ve had my hard knocks when it came to fundraising.

So, after saying all that; Let’s hear it for the winner’s circle! (Ra, Ra!)

Historic Tree Restoration, Phase II
John Bromfield’s will directed street trees to be installed across the city from Atkinson Park to Marlboro.   Disease, ignorant homeowners, lazy city maintenance, out-of-town developers have done great damage.     Worse, is the installation of inappropriate trees that rip up our sidewalks with shallow roots.     For these reasons, most have to be replaced and the correct, deep-rooted ones put in their place if we ever hope to have good sidewalks.      This should be continually supported every year.

Open Space Reserve Fund
10% of the money needs to be designated for open space needs and stashed away in a fund because the city only gets 120 days to decide if it wants to protect land that is previously zoned for agriculture or open.      The money needs to be ready immediately.

Colby Farm Acquisition
The very purpose for the Open Space Reserve Fund.     Our Open Space & Recreation Plan 2012-2022 demands this type of acquisition.      An increase in recreational space and a prevention of impervious surfaces in a watershed/wetlands sensitive area.

Inn Street Fountain Restoration & Interpretive Signage
during the summer, this area is packed with children and tourists as well as locals.     The public benefit is clear, and the restoration is a powerful enhancement of infrastructure as well as promoting Newburyport with informative signage.

Old South Church
A church asking for its interior to be restored would normally have the applicant kicked out onto the pavement with a stern warning; but there are only two international draws to Newburyport:  the Lighthouse Restaurant and George Whitefield’s Church (and his tomb).      People come to tour this building from all over the world due to the legacy of the Great Awakening and the birth of our nation;  to improve tourism, this water-damaged Trump L’oeil interior needs to be restored.

Meeting House and Steeple
They had the nerve to come back for more money!     Normally, the response would be the same as my last post concerning double-dibbing churches.    But if there is any spire more aligned with Newburyport it is the First Religious Society’s.     The loss of this structure would be like London without St. Paul’s and Paris without the Eiffel Tower!      The benefit is immediate and the need desperately close.

Affordable Housing Trust
If you want to know how horrible a 40B project (or two, or three) can do to a community, you don’t have to drive too far.     They bypass our zoning, they bypass our safety monitoring, they bypass our water & sewer demands and they put horrible pressure on the schools and our infrastructure.     The CPA money would be added to the Trust so we can work toward 10% of affordable housing to avoid these monsters dedicated to community destruction.

Firehouse Center
Another place that has become very closely identified with Newburyport and with its culture.      It is literally become the center by which tourists disembark to see the rest of the community.      It’s roof needs fixing and the biggest benefit is the installation of a preservation restriction guaranteeing the preservation of this structure far into the future.     

My point in all these recommendations is not to sway the Community Preservation Committee who do a pretty good job but rather my readers to champion our tax money where it will do the most good.   The CPC wants to hear from you.    I want to put pressure on our elected officials and I would love to have you join me – your combined informed* opinion will be taken very seriously.

-P. Preservationist

* Enthusiastic idiocy only causes wasted political energy, a lot of confusion and in the end, money ill-spent.      An informed citizenry on the other hand is powerful!

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CPA – Knocking off the List

After looking at this huge list, I have chosen projects that come to $951,140.        Your first thought may be the total sum is ridiculous since there is only $623,537.23 available; but also understand that the CPC is not obligated to give the full amount requested by a project and so it is more important to prioritize them rather than to fully fund them.     Besides, they are supposed to be able to prove they will have matching funds.

Here is the list in order of their appearance before the CPC.

Some projects I might add would normally get approval by the typical CPA standards during happier times – you know – back when we didn’t have bond payments and when we had 100% matching from the state.      The following list should be rejected not because they are ineligible but because of lacking priority.      Nevertheless, I have the following reasons why they should be knocked down the line:

Clipper City Rail Trail Phase II
Everyone knows I am an enthusiastic supporter and cheered when the City Councilors budgeted out of free cash, the final amount for design to get the whole bowl of wax going.   But this is just extra gravy – I still feel we wasted money with all those stairs (that hardly anyone uses) on Phase I.      I hope we don’t see a forest of them on Phase II!

Historic Landscape Preservation, Phase III
I cheer the exterior preservation of our churches but how many times do we let them come back to the faucet when there are so many other projects with greater needs?     Let’s cut them off before we become aiders and abettors to their financial addiction.

Belleville Congregational Church Restoration
Same as above, perhaps a few bucks to help them along with concerts but there are some big demands this year that take greater priority.

Congregation Ahavas Achim Infrastructure Work
In a happier time, this would be approved but should be refused.    One, they have come before already, and Two, much of the work borders on interior and/or maintenance.      Give some other churches in town a chance!

Range Lights Community Sculpture Garden
Gardening?    Landscaping?      Art pieces?      Sorry, there are other funding vehicles for paying for this.    Newburyport Art Association is a 501(c)3 organization.     Go for it through some other grant.

Other projects are frankly either maintenance projects, improvement projects, rehab projects or, worse; these should have been added to the Mayor’s proposed budget for City Council to debate.   They represent taking the financially easier and lazier course:

Waterfront Park/Central Waterfront Enhancement Project
Everyone knows I am an enthusiastic supporter of more parks, but this is not the case here.    There is no ‘purchasing’ of park land; but rather doing due diligence that should have been done in the first place!     So where has all this parking money gone?     Yet another study that has gone no where?

Replacement of Trees at the Firehouse
In a happier, richer time; this would have been fine.     But frankly, this belongs on the Park Commission budget, vetted through the City Council.      This is just maintenance bordering on capital improvement based on putting in a better type of tree.

Bradley Fuller Athletic Complex Improvement and Expansion
“Do it for the children” will be the political cry, but frankly this is a maintenance project disguised as a capital expense.      Sorry, maybe some other year.

Cherry Hill Parcel B Soccer Field Improvement

Newburyport High School Exterior Woodwork Restoration
If capital projects could improve a child’s education, this still would be really stretching it.    It’s time to drop the above catch-all phrase and turn this one down.     Besides, this is a second time at the faucet.     Looks like more addiction!

Cushing House Fence
Fences are basically a maintenance issue – and frankly are right on the border of being infrastructure – maybe next year.

Newburyport Housing Rehabilitation Program
The title says it all – are we purchasing new affordable housing units?      Are we converting a deplorable building so it can used for affordable housing units?       Sorry, rehab does not help – I don’t think our tax money should go for fancy new kitchen cabinets, counters and dishwashers!

Kelleher Park Family Housing Development
This is the City of Newburyport in disguise – and no, this should be a city budget allotment for maintenance and rehab work.         Another attempt to bypass the City Council.

There is one on this list which is frankly incredible:

Yankee Homecoming Project
This bid frankly violates the infrastructure use of CPA money.    Where is the lasting ramifications on the infrastructure?    Besides, by the time this money would be approved, Yankee Homecoming 2015 would have been long gone!      CPA money usually after a long process of vetting, is issued in September-October!

In my next post, I will list with reasons, those projects that should survive.

I realize that politically, some projects I reject will survive; but in a perfect world where reason and public benefit are a priority, they shouldn’t.      Perhaps, the CPC will mitigate such foolishness by throwing them tiny financial bones.

At least I hope!

-P. Preservationist

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CPA – Let’s use a Sifter!

Reviewing just a bit, we have $623,537.23 available for CPA projects in 2015.        In comparison, we have a total of $1,994,125 in requested funds from the City of Newburyport, from various boards, commissions & semi-autonomous organizations; and finally, a collection of private organizations ranging from churches to museums.

First of all, we need to understand that the Community Preservation Act is an infrastructure granting vehicle.   Let’s suppose Geordie Vining, in celebration of the final completion of the Clipper City Rail Trail Loop wanted some money so they could celebrate; as much as the CPC would love to contribute, he’d still be turned down.      He’d probably apply to the Cultural Council for funds instead.

Second, the Community Preservation Act is never to be used for maintenance.      If the Bartlett Mall Commission wanted some money to repair those smashed park benches we all get to stare at this last couple months; as much as everyone would love to see them fixed, the CPC would have to turn them down.        I completely understand that – I have to repair the signs on the Little River Nature Trail.     I will be looking somewhere else for the funds.     On another level, there has been some debate over the years as to the difference between historic restoration and historic neglect but that’s why we have a panel of qualified members on the commission to make that nuanced decision.

Third, The Act is setup up that at the very minimum, 10% of the money would be funneled into four categories: Affordable Housing, Historic Preservation, Open Space and Recreation.    That means that at the very least, $62,534 must be dedicated to each category out of $623,537.23.        

Fourthly, each project must show public benefit or show that the community is receiving benefit from the use of this allocated tax money.      The theme of this program should always be: Community Preservation.      Each submission must prove that the community will either benefit or be improved/preserved with this money.        

Fifth, this is the people’s money.  

The portion from the state match was derived by public tax; the local surcharge is a tax.       And when you give out the people’s money, there are ALWAYS STRINGS ATTACHED.      If a private organization doesn’t want to have the government meddling in their business, they should never apply for this money.      There is a cost.   The City of Newburyport with all its needs is accountable to the people; and so will a private organization if it takes this money.      Buildings upgraded require a preservation restriction on them, private organizations must open their facilities to the public for public events and tours and demonstrate they contribute to the communities well-being.         For example, the Old South has benefited greatly from the CPA money to upgrade their exterior – and because of it, they have regular tours and never charge for them, ever.      And they participate whenever possible to open their facility for public benefit.       To some organizations, that can be too steep a price.

So right now, the breakdown is spread out this way:

The City has requested $943,308 for their projects.

The Boards, Commissions and semi-autonomous organizations have requested $475,532.

And private organizations have requested $575,285.

In my next post, I will show recommendations for projects based on all the points that I just made.      

Let’s see if you agree with me.    

-P. Preservationist

PS. It will be hard, but you need to set aside fealties, family, friendships, politics and just plain old pet projects and tell me your justification if you do differ with my conclusions.        Don’t be timid, but at least think it through before you write!

Posted in Affordable Housing, Economics, Education, Health and wellness, Heritage Tourism, History, Maintenance, News and politics, Open Space, Organizations, Parks, Planning, Preservation, Quality of Life, Recreation, Renovation, Restoration, schools, Tourism, Tours, trails, Trees, Waterfront | Leave a comment

CPA – A Matter of Prioritizing

This is the first year that I have no project of my own submitted to the Community Preservation Committee.     Therefore, I can freely indicate my opinion without a vested interest as to what projects should be getting first dibs on the money.    As we all know, every year there are far too many applying for a piece of  an ever-shrinking pie.       I’m going to help the public process along by giving some reasons.

Yes, the Community Preservation Committee struggles with this same issue.      Every year, they tackle the difficult task of balancing the needs of the project sponsors and the needs of the community over such a small amount.         I might add that they have done a fine job each year in struggling with the decisions.    I credit Mike Dissette for doing a fine job being the chair.   I wouldn’t say one hundred percent but I would say that the majority of the time; they really ‘get it right’.      So much so, that the City Council over the years have rarely had to debate the projects, so thorough the CPC vetting has been done.

But each year, the political pressure increases.      And with a strong-arm Mayor at the helm; determined to force the money into her projects; and the powerful school lobby using strong-arm tactics like they did last year; it is urgent that the general public get involved.       I’m going to use a little of the CPC’s techniques to bulls eye what projects should get the go ahead.

If you don’t like my conclusions; then that is good.    Then say so and tell me why!   Tell the city why.   Tell the city councilors why.   Tell the public why.         It’s time the citizens have a greater influence in how this tax money that is supposed to help preserve our community should be spent.         Too many years, City Hall and the Mayor have increasingly decided where it should go by using the Planning Office as their Pipeline.

Our silence only encourages more of the CPA money being hijacked!

Keep in mind the City Council, not the CPC; has the final say.      And yes, the Mayor could veto a project but usually the vetting is so thorough, this has not occurred yet. (yet)

So in my next post, I will lay down my recommendations.

Here are the projects:

-P. Preservationist

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