NEWBURYPORT —City Councilor Dick Sullivan said that if elected mayor, he will attempt to change the course of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority as it relates to the central waterfront.
“In my first week at work, I would sit down with the NRA and ask if they are willing to discuss giving their lots to the citizens of Newburyport,” said Sullivan recently, who is running for mayor against incumbent Donna Holaday. “If they’re not interested (in discussing the matter), then we can talk about the NRA disbanding.”
Sullivan has said he is against development on the waterfront and during an interview with The Daily News, he issued his strongest message yet against commercial construction.
The NRA owns two riverfront parcels totaling 4.2 acres now used primarily as parking lots.
The quasi-public authority is reviewing a plan by its consultant, Union Studio of Providence, that envisions construction of 70,000 square feet of condominium units, shops, a restaurant and underground parking.
The NRA owns the land, not the city.
Regarding its future, it is unclear how much influence a mayor would have on the NRA’s approach to developing the property.
State law controls the working of this group, and legal observers associated with City Hall say that it is not easy to dissolve the NRA under state law.
Sullivan did not state that he would disband the NRA — only talk to them about it.The NRA would have to vote to dissolve itself.
NRA members have discussed this prospect in public meetings, but in the context of dissolving as a board when their work is finished. Their plan would be to give the property to the city when their work is done.
Last week, they announced they are reviewing options to a tentative plan created by Union Studio in Providence.
Regarding Sullivan’s opposition to NRA plans, City Hall observers say that a mayor who wanted to thwart the panel could look to upcoming reappointments.
Four of the members are named by the mayor and approved by the City Council, and a fifth person is named by state officials.
The following city-appointed members serve on the voluntary panel, and their five-year term expirations are as follows: Chairman Tom Salemi (expires January 2017); John Morris (March 2014); Patti Dorfman (March 2017); Adam Guild (July 2015).
James Shanley, former chairman, is appointed by the governor’s office. He was recently accorded another term, and his tenure is scheduled to expire in March 2018.
Holaday said she supports limited development on the central waterfront, and recently stated she opposes condominium and underground parking.