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September 23, 2013

Borings results could become factor in campaigns

The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority gained yardage as a result of a favorable report Wednesday regarding the test borings of its 4.2 riverfront acres.

The NRA’s engineers reported that the group has a green light to continue its effort to bring commercial development to the central waterfront. (Contaminated soil can be trucked away to the satisfaction of the state Department of Environmental Protection, engineers said).

Those results will likely spark some debate as election season continues.

The candidates in the preliminary were all against condos and underground parking. Greg Earls was especially critical of the NRA plan, and during a candidate’s forum, he said the city could “start building an improved park in April if we create a revenue bond” and complement the figure with parking fees.

But it was Donna Holaday and Richard Sullivan, Jr. who the voters chose for the Nov. 5 election, and the waterfront likely will remain a key issue in their campaigning.

Four years ago, Holaday advocated for keeping the waterfront open as she campaigned for office. The two-time mayor has said her views have evolved since she first ran. While she opposes condos and underground parking, she now favors “limited” development.

Sullivan, meanwhile, has commented during his campaigning that the NRA should “pack up and go home.” He’s against commercial development there, reasoning that years from now residents will be happy they retained open space on the Merrimack.

So there are two candidates against condos and underground parking, and the NRA in favor of both. What does that mean for the city?

The waterfront issue will likely be parsed in the upcoming election for City Council, as 10 candidates are running for five at-large seats, and 12 aspirants are seeking the six ward seats. The City Council, however, will not vote on any waterfront development plan as it falls outside their authority.

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