NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 26, 2013

Proposed Ale House unlikely to win quick approval

Newburyport City Notebook
Dyke Hendrickson

---- — It looks like it will be a long and winding road before restaurateur Joe Leone can get permission to open his proposed Newburyport Ale House at 40 Merrimac St., in the rambling, red brick warehouse that housed Davis Auto Parts. But it’s possible.

Leone and his team have appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Historical Commission and the Waterfront Trust. An additional hoop they will like have to jump through is that held aloft by the Planning Board.

Plans call for 591 seats in summer. Because the Black Cow and Michael’s Harborside each offer more than 400 seasonal seats, the waterfront could be a lively locale if the Ale House does open.

Leone is getting qualified support as he works to comply with the info requests from commissions. Among those who have publicly said that they favor the idea if details can be worked out include Planning Director Andy Port, Waterfront Trust Vice Chairman Doug Locy and ZBA member Jamie Pennington.

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Mental meanderings of Your Scribe:

The potential for more commerce has raised the question of more parking. A report commissioned by the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority recently stated that there is more than enough parking downtown on all days except major celebrations such as Yankee Homecoming. If that study was done before the Ale House was announced, that analysis might have to be revisited.

The parking lot of the nearby Immaculate Conception Church and School is frequently mentioned as a potential spillover parking site on weekends. Has anyone actually approached church leaders about this prospect?

On the other hand, think of Fenway Park and the Hatch Shell in Boston. There is little public parking for either venue, but they both draw overflow crowds.

Careers in the hospitality industry is under the radar of the job-counting crowd, but it appears the restaurant and bar business is a major source of new employment in the city. The business and industrial park is just about full and manufacturing is fading, which the loss of 70 jobs at Mersen announced last week appears to confirm. Well, hospitality and medical.

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The spring of 2013 looms large in terms of planning for development near the riverfront.

Currently being reviewed by local boards are the Ale House and the NRA’s $20 million mixed commercial project, both near Market Landing Park. The Harbor Commission has announced its interest in doubling the size of the harbormaster’s headquarters (to a size of 30-by-30 feet), and the Waterfront Trust has ruminated about extending the dockage adjacent to property it controls along the boardwalk.

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Regarding waterfront issues, local officials are taking the initial steps to acquire federal funding to fortify the north jetty at the mouth of the Merrimack River. State Sen. Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester, was the key leader in obtaining the $3.6 million for the south jetty, and he plans to notify Sens. John Kerry and Elizabeth Warren and Congressman John Tierney about the need to improve both walls. State Sen. Kathleen O’Connor Ives and state Rep. Lenny Mirra attended last Friday’s meeting of the Merrimack River Beach Authority, at which Tarr said he is filing a bill at the state level to create a Commission on Coastal Erosion. Accompanying O’Connor Ives at the recent MRBA session, incidentally, was her new chief of staff, Hailey Klein, who was instrumental in her Senate victory. Klein is a former field coordinator at John Tierney for Congress.

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At the City Council meeting tonight, the first reading of the following appointments is scheduled: Katie Guildner, Moseley Woods Commission; Sarah White, Historical Commission; Deborah Woron-Masia, Moseley Woods Commission.

Slated to be re-appointed are Paul Dahn, Harbor Commission; and Joseph Donnelly, Library Board of Directors.

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

Tonight

Budget and Finance Committee of the Whole, 6:30 p.m., City Hall.

City Council, 7:30 p.m., City Council Chambers.

Tuesday

River Valley Charter School Accountability Committee, 6:30 p.m., 2 Perry Way.

Wednesday

Retirement Board, 10 a.m., City Hall.

Sewer Commission, 5 p.m., 115 Water St.

Newburyport Redevelopment Authority, 7 p.m., public library, 94 State St.

Thursday

Energy Advisory Commission, 7 p.m., City Hall.

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