, Newburyport, MA

August 6, 2013

On the waterfront, a new twist on parking woes


---- — NEWBURYPORT — The city’s Waterfront Trust has changed its rules regarding the highly sought parking spaces it owns, sparking a bit of a controversy among at least one business that depends on those spots.

Part of the west parking lot off Merrimac Street is owned by the Waterfront Trust, and that area has recently undergone changes that mean some free spots are now paid spaces.

The Waterfront Trust leases about 64 spots in Riverside Park to the city, which manages revenues. Parking places leased to businesses such as (the former) Davis Auto Parts and 40R Merrimac Street in the past have reverted to public spaces.

The Waterfront Trust, which supervises Riverside Park, has declined to offer leases to private owners, including Joseph Leone, who has plans to build the Merrimac Ale House on the Davis site, and David Murphy, who owns 40R Merrimac St.

One tenant of 40R Merrimac St., Port City Sandwich Shop owner Tyke Karapoulos, has expressed concern that retailers such as himself have lost parking spots that formerly were free to customers.

City officials say that the Waterfront Trust had leased spots to David Murphy in a “grandfathered” arrangement.

When Leone asked to lease spaces, the Trust declined the request. And in an effort to provide equal treatment to all business owners, Trust members are not leasing spots to Leone and they are not leasing to Murphy.

About eight spots (total) formerly rented by Davis Auto Parts and the 40R Merrimac building are reverting from leased spots to public parking, city officials say.

Perhaps adding to the confusion of changing rules in the west lot, parking stickers on Newburyport vehicles are not honored in the Waterfront Trust lot there.

“We are required to treat Newbury, West Newbury and Newburyport alike,” said Scott Sutherland, a member of the Waterfront Trust. “We can’t give special status to Newburyport” and thus this city’s resident stickers are not honored in Riverside Park lots.

Municipal leaders have erected signs that provide for two 15-minute spaces ostensibly to enable stop-and-go shopping.

Still, Karopoulos stated that changing policies are difficult for small business owners.

“I own a home in the city, and have a family here,” said Karopoulos. “I would like to think that city officials can find a way to permit customers to find parking spots here.”

City Clerk Richard Jones, who supervises parking, said, “It’s a case of parking places once assigned to retail are now part of a paid-parking lot. We patrol this area like any other city lot.”

Mayor Donna Holaday yesterday said, “We are always trying to balance the needs of the business community with parking needs. We are trying to make it all work.”

In other news regarding city parking, yesterday engineers and construction workers entered the west parking lot near the waterfront to begin test borings on land owned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.

Parking spots have been temporarily lost due to the work.

The NRA owns 4.2 acres of land along the river, and has made public its tentative vision to put shops, a restaurant and condominium units there as a means of generating revenue to develop a larger public park.

State regulations require soil tests for construction near the water, and thus the NRA has retained an engineering company at a cost of about $40,000.

That cost will be partially paid by a $16,000 grant from MassDevelopment, a state agency that encourages economic growth.

NRA officials say they hope to have the project completed and analyzed by their mid-September meeting.

In a separate development, crews were working on part of the downtown Green Street parking lot in an effort to embellish that area.

Construction teams will be there for about six weeks.

City officials say only part of the parking area will be under renovation at a given time, leaving about two-thirds available for vehicles.