NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

February 5, 2013

NRA accused of closed talks

Open waterfront backers call for more open process

NEWBURYPORT — A lawyer representing the Committee for an Open Waterfront, Inc., has written to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority accusing the group of “evident violations of the (state) Open Meeting Law.”

Mark Peters, with the Boston firm of Rubin and Rudman, LLP, threatened to take the concern to state officials in his letter.

“If the Authority declines to do so (desist from secret deliberations), the committee will bring the matter to the attention of the attorney general of the commonwealth and will request her intervention and investigation,” the Jan. 28 letter reads.

The NRA owns 4.2 acres on the riverfront, and authority members are pursuing a tentative plan to develop two commercial buildings with shops and condominium units in order to generate money to expand and maintain more park space.

The NRA has been meeting regularly in open session on this matter for close to a year, but COW members allege that NRA members also get together privately to discuss future plans.

The letter quoted an instance when NRA officials purportedly acknowledged meeting “behind the scenes” on Jan. 16, but no confirmation of that accusation could be made yesterday.

James Shanley, chairman of the NRA, was not available for comment yesterday. And it wasn’t clear whether he had received the communication. The letter was mailed to the NRA at City Hall, according to COW members.

Tom Salemi, an NRA member who often handles press inquiries, said, “We can’t comment on a letter we haven’t seen yet. But we personally don’t see how a letter like this is consistent with the spirit of compromise that emerged from last week’s public meeting.”

Salemi was referring to an NRA meeting last week at which residents were encouraged to ask questions and express their thoughts on the NRA’s tentative vision. Close to 100 attended the session. and almost a score spoke publicly. Opinions were mixed on the merits of creating the two commercial structures.

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