When you watch the video, ‘Newburyport: A Measure of Change’ you will not see any reference to lawsuits. It was, as the Germans would pronounce, ‘It was forbaden’ by the grant sponsor of the film. And if you read the Port in Progress book with all its photographs and smiling politicians, you will get just a hint of grimace on some of those faces. Many intended actions were stopped by lawsuits.
It’s not just a bunch of activists making loud noises or a group of citizens attending public hearings; there were lawsuits filed – many in the state land courts or in Superior Court and yes, even on the Federal level. Roger Foster was hit with a lawsuit. Lot 8 (Merrimack Landing) caused the City/NRA to be hit with lawsuits and even stopped Lot 8’s tracks by Federal intervention derived by advocacy and appeals. Even Congress and Beacon Hill became involved. The NRA was stopped by a lawsuit which ended up, by court direction, spawning the Waterfront Trust and guaranteeing the ways to the Waterfront.
Then came the money issues – boycotts and threats of more lawsuits bordering on intimidation and fostering tense negotiations. Then came threats of lawsuits preventing a hotel on the east side of the Central Waterfront and now New England Development is fighting hard with the Feds on the FEMA flood maps.
I am bringing this up to counteract this false impression that everyone had egalitarian motives on how the Downtown and the Waterfront were to be developed. When one of the anti-historic preservation groups shows a Downtown with happy, smiling tourists on their website; they hide the true situation.
People don’t necessarily do the ‘right thing’ out of the goodness of the heart; they are doing what they feel is right and will go against the facts, the aim of the Downtown and the benefit of the entire community if it suits them. That is where the minimal controls of the local historic district ordinance allows historic preservation to be the main theme. A very successful theme. Businesses like Port Plaza or North Shore Mall have ‘basic covenants’ for their tenants to uphold for the overall benefit of all parties. Newburyport Development practices this with their tenants.
I’d rather have a centrally-themed Downtown than continue to have it shaped by legal action.