NEWBURYPORT — The city’s largest landowner, New England Development, is scheduled to appear before the Planning Board tonight at 7 at City Hall to present applications for preliminary subdivision approval in two separate parts of the downtown.
One area in particular represents a sizeable portion of the city’s waterfront, a 2.6-acre area between Water Street and the Merrimack River that includes the Oldies Marketplace vintage store as well as a NED-owned marina. The other is near the corner of Titcomb and Merrimac streets, which city officials say is the proposed site of a hotel.
The development company, which has owned substantial portions of downtown Newburyport for a decade, has kept its future plans for its properties a closely guarded secret. The latest applications are no exception to that practice.
The Water Street proposal, called Harbor Way in the application, is a noteworthy signal from NED. The company has quietly held onto the land for a decade, but has not publicly proposed any plans for it. Three years ago NED held secret meetings with Newburyport Redevelopment Authority members to discuss a possible hotel on the site, but it abandoned those plans when the meetings became public knowledge.
It is not clear whether the development company wants to embark on a building program now on its Water Street parcels, or what exactly it plans to build. City Hall officials have speculated that the company might want to have the applications registered before possible changes in the zoning ordinance that are being considered by the City Council.
The council met last night for the second reading of interim amendments to the city’s zoning ordinance. An approval of the second reading would mean that the city possesses new regulations for the design and/or demolition of buildings in the downtown area.
By making application to the Department of Planning and Development prior to the passing of the new rules — as NED has done — the requests for preliminary subdivision plans would ostensibly come under the old ordinances.