NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 4, 2013

NRA waterfront plans face possible legal challenge

(Continued)

However, it was mentioned at the meeting that Powers has been hospitalized in Boston after a serious auto accident and could be under care in that city for at least a month.

Tom Salemi, a member of the NRA board, yesterday said that the board will have a comment after the letter can be read by legal counsel.

The NRA commissioned, and has received, a general outline from professional consultants calling for two commercial buildings that would include shops, restaurants and 30 to 35 condominium units.

They say that revenue produced by the private project will help pay for the creation of a park, and revenue for its upkeep.

Although nothing has been finalized, NRA treasurer Adam Guild said it would be about a $20 million project with buildings and park.

The Peters letter written on behalf of COW urged that the NRA make environmental assessments before it extends the RFP. The NRA owns the land, not the city.

“The Authority owes it to the city — its mayor and City Council — and to the entire community to examine, through the medium of an environmental assessment, both the legal and environmental constraints on the uses that might be made of the waterfront together with the legal and environmental opportunities that the waterfront might, with the Authority’s fulfillment of its public trust, offer to all its users.”

The letter said that should the Authority publish an RFP before conducting an environmental assessment, the NRA would be committing itself to a particular program of development without having any adequate understanding of whether that development could withstand environmental scrutiny, and “whether the development was anything more than an invitation to a new round of litigation.”

NRA members say they have environmental assessments in hand, and that much research has been done.

But in some areas, members seem willing to listen to the assessment of developers about what choices might be best.

On the question of whether the NRA will sell the 4.2 acres or lease it, Shanley has said he will see how developers want to pursue the matter.

Yesterday was the first time that COW has publicly stated it will propose a plan of its own. Details were not available at press time.

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