Time for an update

An increasing number of readers are depending on my blog to find out what is really going on in the city.       That can generate some disappointment as I am committed to posting information only when research and links back up what I am saying; and there are often cases where it is inappropriate to say anything, though I am fully informed on what is going on.     I am very thankful for the other blog sites that post (which I link to) and many other Facebook pages that attempt to monitor the pulse of the city.      I am very appreciative that Ari’s Newburyport Commons has really taken off.       Unfortunately, it is very disheartening that in that format; people’s biases and ill-informed opinions are awash.    To avoid being distracted by lies and propaganda – I do my best not to read the comments on Daily News articles and on Facebook pages that relate to the city and I do my best to delete emotional and personal comments on my own blog.

Regardless of the downside, it is exciting to see our community acting like, well, a community!       Too many years, large sectors of our city felt isolated – some of it was on purpose (John Marquand fought an insular culture here in the early twentieth century) and others just by a series of unfortunate circumstances. (Like Boston commuters never subscribing to the local papers.)

Here is what is going on presently. (Excluding Plum Island, that the Daily News is covering quite excellently.)

The new Master Plan is stalled unless we can get more input.     10% of the citizens have responded, which on a national level is typical for a survey – but the Mayor and the Steering Committee want this to be a living document.      That’s not going to happen unless more community participation is generated.      Fill out the survey, folks, and get your neighbors to fill out the survey!

The re-zoning which was much trumpeted by the Mayor is right now going no where.     That doesn’t mean it won’t come out of hiding with a phony deadline; but it is not to be seen.      That means segmented zoning issues are what we will continue to be handling for some time – 40R, back-bay re-zoning, DOD, DCOD, First Republic’s Overlay District and the biggy, WWOD.        Talk about keeping us busy!

Clipper City Rail Trail, Phase II.   Regardless of past downers; the Clipper City Rail Trail has been a smashing success and largely paid for by our ‘other’ back wallet: state and federal tax monies.     It’s still our money and I am very pleased we get to see it back in town.    Well, that wallet is primed to release a lot of our cash back our way for the Clipper City Rail Trail, Phase II.    But Newburyport has to pony up a small amount comparatively for the design phase.     We have it through the other tax, CPA, but more was needed.     Thanks to the foresight of our City Council, that missing chunk has been transferred out of our free cash fund and it looks like August is slated to begin the first step toward the reality of a huge loop of bike trail around Joppa, the South End, March’s Hill and the Waterfront.      Talk about jumping up our city’s property values, and our quality of life!       It will be very exciting to see it unfolding.

The Protection of the Common Pasture.     The Daily News‘ fine articles today on the historical floods clearly warns us to take the specter of a flood as a threat today.       We need to stop hearing from NAID’ers and dark siders who blatantly refuse to take it seriously.      Thankfully, the Strategic Land Use Committee’s report, the city’s new Wetlands Ordinance and state & federal regulations; are all committed to minimizing the damaging affects that could threaten our industrial park and residents downstream and the health of the Common Pasture and the Great Marsh.      The cause of this potential devastation is a large bowl surrounding the upper Little River.  The following measures of protection have been done to make sure it is not covered in impervious surfaces.  First, was the preservation of the open space around the abandoned Route 95 land, Second,  came the acquisition of the Cooper North Pasture Area. Third were some parcels out in the Common Pasture.   Fourth, a large tract of land owned by Oleo Woods.     Still in the process but coming shorty will be a large tract of agricultural/wetlands behind the Tropic Star CVS development.      And finally, and still going through a long, arduous, process will be the preservation of the Colby Farm lots in and around the Landfill.      There are more properties that need protecting but these are a good start.

 The Parking Garage and the WWOD.     Regardless of what Newburyport Development and it’s parent company, New England Development may appear to say; the city’s welfare is not their concern.     This is not being mean, it’s just the way they do business.      The Mayor and the City Councilors need a very firm hand so we can get some benefit out of their project.      Laying conditions down will do much good.   Speaking of being firm, the new owners of the ugly Richardson Garage need to keep in mind that one of the first views of visitors as they go over the Gillis Bridge, will be their piece of development.      How it looks will be very important for the benefit of all.

The Ale House and Parking.      The final design plan is not good. (Part of the building will be smack dab in the middle of one of the Ways to the Water – Mass Historic was against the plan, but political pressure forced them to reverse themselves.)     And the parking issue will be greatly exacerbated.        I see lots of trouble down the road and one of them is profitability and a visual disruption down Green Street, the very reason that COW was so against buildings on the Waterfront will be very apparent when the construction on this structure is complete.        I predict (or else it could stand as an eyesore for fifty years) that eventually the building will be modified to fix this problem.        The only good thing that will come of it now is the Riverfront Park will finally look like a park.

The 40R is suffering from a bad case of bloating.      According to the important work of the Strategic Land Use Committee, development was to be encouraged around the traffic circle and train station instead of on the sensitive Upper Little River Basin.     The initial plans by Minco on the face do just that and do it rather comprehensively in a fine piece of urban planning.        But Minco is just like NED; the city’s welfare nor the impact of their development into the future is not their concern.     Again, the Mayor and the Planning Office and the Planning Board need to be firm so this whole area will benefit the city and the citizens.         Conditions need to be stipulated and held to completely.    The siren songs of the state need to be resisted so our ship of state is not wrecked upon the rocks.

The DCOD will be under attack.      The historic preservationists in town need to get aggressive for there are plans underway to use every means possible to pervert the intended goals of this zoning ordinance.        A back bone, a lot of research, aggressive advocacy and much publicity; all of these will be necessary to stop the Mayor, the Building Department, the Planning Office, the Demo-lawyers and the Zoning Board of Appeals from making a mockery of this document.        It’s daunting but if done right, the hostility will slowly turn into begrudging respect. (and hopefully some fear)

I haven’t heard anything about First Republic’s plans for the Towle Property; the eventual plans for the National Grid property, the final conversion of Cushing Park into a real park, and anything new about the Central Waterfront or any new developments concerning the Whittier Bridge.

There will be some surprises over this spring and summer – as to them being pleasant, well, that’s another matter.

 -P. Preservationist

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