NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 9, 2013

Forum may offer more from candidates on waterfront

A forum bringing together the three mayoral candidates is scheduled for Thursday at the Firehouse Center for the Arts, and the dialogue generated there might be of help to voters in the Sept. 17 primary.

Mayor Donna Holaday and City Councilors Greg Earls and Dick Sullivan Jr. are well known in the community, but their views on municipal issues haven’t been fully aired.

The issue of the central waterfront will likely come up, and this is one area where voters will likely benefit from more detail.

Earls, for instance, has recently stated that he will pursue a “non-privatized” Waterfront Park through use of a revenue bond paid by parking receipts. This is a proposal that would appear to merit further explanation.

Sullivan recently said he would “keep the waterfront open and expanded for future generations.” Would he oppose private development?

And Holaday said she would like to see “expansion of a magnificent park funded through limited development to connect our vibrant downtown to the waterfront.” What exactly does “limited” mean?

If the forum does elicit useful dialogue regarding the central waterfront, it raises the question of how the next mayor will respond to the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority’s initiative to seek private development to improve the parking lots and expand the park.

The five-member NRA for months has been moving toward a request for proposals under the assumption that it alone can decide the future of the 4.2 acres it owns.

But what if the next mayor does not agree with the NRA’s vision of a three-building, 70,000-square-foot development?

Would the city’s elected leader try to thwart the NRA?

If Holaday is re-elected, for instance, would her view of “limited development” result in a request for downsizing the project to perhaps two buildings with a total of 35,000 square feet?

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