By Dyke Hendrickson
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Most of the candidates for mayor attended the Saturday session on the central waterfront hosted by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.
The following are comments relating to the NRA’s revised plan:
Mayor Donna Holaday: “This presentation shows the NRA has been listening to residents’ opinions, and I like the idea of a smaller footprint.
“We’re working to find a balance in some form of development that will provide a link with the downtown while maintaining a beautiful waterfront.”
She said she favors improved park area and is seeking a means to pay for its creation and maintenance.
Holaday added that city officials are continuing to explore ways to develop more parking, including creation of a parking garage in the downtown.
City Councilor Greg Earls said he is an advocate for non-privatized waterfront.
“The waterfront park defines the downtown and should become a public treasure. The park should be a connection to the waterfront, not be creating private residences but through a celebration of its history and a sense of its community.”
He said he is not against some kind of building — but not by private business — and he is against selling or leasing any portion of the waterfront park.
“The connection from the downtown to the water should be one that does not include private ownership of land.” Earls said a key step in considering uses for the waterfront is to define and refine the parking situation.
City Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr., also a candidate, said, “I believe the only answer is to expand the waterfront park on both the west and east side and no buildings other than a visitors center with bathrooms and a better facility for boater services and the harbormaster’s office.
“All things considered, I think we are wasting our dollars, time and energy on the idea that any developer, knowing the history of what has transpired on the waterfront over the last 50 years, is going to invest the time and money to build there.
“Although I believe the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has done a beautiful job over the last 50 years, it is time to thank the NRA for a job well done and ask them to disband.”
Candidate Keith Kennedy did not attend the Saturday session but said his position on the waterfront is the following:
He would seek limited taxpayer exposure for waterfront projects and he is “against digging up the parking lots.”
Kennedy “is against underground parking lot near water table (which would be the waterfront) and “parking lot beautification is needed, without large taxpayer exposure. This can be done with more trees, bushes and plants. A large aesthetic gain, without a large expense.”
Kennedy added, “A gravel parking lot is aesthetically superior to a ugly oil-based tar parking lot.”