When Tropic Star decided to obtain the Shell Station and the adjoining properties; all we heard in the news was about the zoning issue, traffic concerns and about the multiplying pharmacies. Faced with abutters and some contrary citizens. (with a peculiar hatred of CVS); the main headlines were filled with smoke and fire.
I watched with peculiar fascination as the city quietly did an end run around the mob and re-zoned the area. (with nary a whisper from the unsophisticated locals) I said nothing – just watched with amusement. That was because there were far bigger issues involved.
The upper Common Pasture is shaped like a bowl with Storey Avenue loaded with impervious surfaces right at the top. Having development in that ‘bowl’ would lead to disaster for our businesses and residences down-river. Little by little, the many properties were acquired to make sure that the forests and wetlands are there to pre-empt flooding, protect the quality of the watershed and to preserve prime open space, our agricultural fields and the wildlife that enrich our environment.
This has been codified in our zoning, especially pertaining to smart growth:
“Open space and environmental protection: To preserve open space, public access, and scenic views to the Merrimack River, and for the protection of natural features and other environmentally sensitive areas. To prevent against erosion and adverse drainage impacts. To minimize the loss of wildlife habitat and other vegetation which have substantial aesthetic, educational, ecological, and/or economic value.” (XV-B, f.)
“Discourage the development of hazard-prone areas so as to reduce damage, cleanup costs and repetitive loss, particularly in response to reports by FEMA and other federal and state agencies….” (XIII-A(7))
In an effort to prevent development in this sensitive watershed, the city has come up against the fact that lots criss-cross the area. This, because at one time, subsistence farming was the rule of the day and now a weave of private lots lay across this drainage area. Most will never be developed because they are landlocked but others do have an opening with access to a public road.
Back when CPA was first instituted, a large swath was protected as well as the voter’s indicating their desire that the abandoned road bed be left as open space for passive recreation; but much to the north between Crow Lane and Storey Avenue was still open for development.
Then came Oleo Woods developing a small residential block and preserving a large wetlands area to be administered by Essex County Greenbelt Association.
This is an exciting development!
But you may say, “Wait a minute, how is this a triple plus for the city?”
As much as the citizens off Woodman Way complained about traffic; they really didn’t care. But one of the important contributions by Tropic Star will be an improvement of a very dangerous situation on Storey Avenue. Accidents at the Park & Ride, accidents at the intersection of Low & Woodman Way and a dangerous interplay of automobiles, bicycles and pedestrians. One of their selling points is to work with the City of Newburyport and MassDOT to improve this whole traffic strip from Route 95 to (hopefully) the beginning of High Street.
Great things are afoot, though many more challenges lay before us!