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March 22, 2013

Waterfront group lobbies for public parking

NEWBURYPORT – The Merrimack River is one of the city’s most visible resources, and a small group of local citizens is determined to protect access to it.

The group calls itself the Newburyport Citizens Chapter 91 Committee, and several members recently appeared at a meeting of the Waterfront Trust. The Trust was reviewing plans of the proposed Newburyport Ale House at 40 Merrimac St., at the head of Riverside Park.

Chapter 91 refers to state guidelines that declare that waterfront acreage (”filled commonwealth tidelands”) should be used for purposes primarily related to the water, such as boating, fishing and sightseeing.

Bill Harris and Larry McCavitt, organization chairman, and perhaps a dozen others make up the Chapter 91 Committee. McCavitt says that close to 50 are on their mailing list. It was founded almost two decades ago, and seems to revive itself as the issues warrant.

Harris told Trust members this week that they should not extend agreements that designate private parking for nearby businesses. (Riverside Park offers about 65 public metered parking slots.)

Harris expressed concern that the Trust would permit the proposed Ale House almost a dozen spaces for use of its employees. He said that employee parking is not an appropriate use for land governed by Chapter 91.

Harris, a lawyer and longtime waterfront watcher, told Trust members, “If you designate private parking for certain shops and businesses, we will challenge it. Private use parking is going in the wrong direction.”

As a result of the Committee’s veiled threat to seek an enforcement order prohibiting such private parking, about 11 parking spaces appear to have been made available to the general public.

“Parking spots that in past years had been under agreement with private businesses will now be available for all parkers,” said Doug Locy, chairman of the Waterfront Trust. “They can be used by anyone coming into town now.”

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