NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

August 26, 2013

Brown School group wants playground referendum on ballot

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — The November ballot will contain names of candidates for every office, and now it appears there might be a referendum question as well.

Friends of the Brown School are obtaining names to put a non-binding question on the ballot relating to their interest in ensuring a neighborhood park remains on the property once it is closed in June 2014.

“Our goal is to get a non-binding ballot question for this November,” said Amy King, a member of the Friends. “Since the question is non-binding, our aim is to get a sense from voters if they would like to keep some sort of park/playground on the grounds of the Brown School once it closes.”

She said her organization needs to get 1,200 signatures by Sept. 5 in order to get this on the ballot. When the group sought online signatures this spring for a separate matter, it garnered close to 500 (online) names in a week.

This spring residents of the South End objected to the sudden disappearance of a playground at the rear of the school. It was dismantled because of safety concerns, and Mayor Donna Holaday, with City Council concurrence, transferred $20,000 for new playground equipment.

Holaday and City Hall officials, however, now are studying whether the school would be an appropriate facility for conversion to affordable housing.

Friends of the Brown School seem to be saying that they would like a park on the property regardless of how the structure is used in the future.

The following is the message of the group, and the content they hope to get on the ballot:

“We, the undersigned, registered voters of the City of Newburyport, request by this non-binding initiative petition that the Newburyport City Council pass the following measure, or that the City Clerk submit such measure without alteration to a vote of the registered voters of the city, all pursuant to the city’s charter.

“Upon the sale, lease or removal from service as a public school of any portion of the buildings and grounds of the G. W. Brown Early Elementary School (Map 21-Parcels 3 and 26), the City of Newburyport shall dedicate and hold permanently for public park and playground uses under the meaning of Chapter 45 of the Massachusetts General Laws an area of such site that is at least equal in size to the school yard currently located on the southeasterly portion of the site, including the mulched area for play equipment, the basketball court, and the so-called amphitheater.”

More information can be found at www.friendsofbrownschoolpark.org.

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Though summer is (regrettably) ending, numerous members of the local burg appear to be getting energized. The following have been vocal:

James Shanley, a member of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, is spearheading an effort for the NRA to hire a public-relations firm to craft its message about the organization’s proposed development on the waterfront. The NRA has earmarked $4,500 and has chosen a Middleton firm for the project.

Developer David Hall has revealed plans for a green residential development near Route 1 off Pond Street. You might say the five-acre parcel is going from brown to green, for the Tannery developer is removing tons of contaminated soil before the building can begin.

Local merchants have been known to grouse about disappointing sales, but City Hall officials say it’s their understanding that the downtown had its best Yankee Homecoming and August since 2007. “I wish they had the auto rally once a month,” said Steve Luz, who runs Angie’s Food. “The crowds were great.”

Leaders in the local art, music, drama and literature fields were called upon to “testify” to the vibrant state of the arts last week when members of the Massachusetts Cultural Council came to hear comments in support of the city’s being certified as a cultural district. Arts leaders who were invited to stand and deliver included Michael Mroz of the Custom House Maritime Museum; Shari Wilkinson, organizer of the Newburyport Farmer’s Market; Alan Bull, artist; Vicki Hendrickson, founder of the literary festival; Jane Niebling, organizer of the chamber music festival; Marc Clopton of the Actor’s Studio; Julie Ganong, owner, Chococoa Baking Co.; Doug Locy, chair of the Waterfront Trust; Sarah White of the Historical Society; Greg Nikas, photographer at Sweet Haven Gallery; and Gloria Martin of the Compass Rose Inn.

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The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:

Tonight

School Committee meet and greet, 6:30 p.m., greet new superintendent, Room 118

School Committee meeting, 7 p.m., room 118, high school.

Waterfront Trust, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.

City Council meeting, canceled.

Tuesday

Bartlet Mall Commission, 6 p.m., library.

Community Preservation Committee, 7 p.m., 4 Green St.

Zoning Board of Appeals, 7 p.m., City Council Chambers

Wednesday

Register to vote at City Hall, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., last chance to register for municipal primary on Sept. 17.

Retirement System Board, 9 a.m., City Hall.

Joint water and sewer commissions, 4:30 p.m., 115 Water St.

Thursday

Energy Advisory Committee, 7 p.m., mayor’s conference room, City Hall.

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Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be reached at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226 or dhendrickson@newburyportnews.com.