, Newburyport, MA

NRA Waterfront Plans

September 3, 2007

37 years later, waterfront's woes remain unresolved


Byron Matthews had decided not to run for a sixth term as mayor in the 1977 municipal election. In January of 1978, he was succeeded by Richard Sullivan, who initially supported the NRA's position in the case, although he was not in principle opposed to public access points to the river. Over time, Sullivan appointed new members to the NRA.

After the Appeals Court ruling, with the Friends contemplating an appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court, Sullivan told the city's attorney, Richard Jones, to explore a settlement with the Friends.

Jones telephoned Harris, who was working and living in California, but who still retained his home on Lime Street -- and his interest in preserving the "wayes."

"My memory is that Bill and I hammered out the framework for an agreement," Jones said last week, quickly adding that there were several other participants in the talks.

At the end of March, a little more than a month after the Appeals Court ruling, they had a deal.

"Timing is everything and the time was right," Jones said.

Six "wayes" would be preserved, but two of them could be partially relocated to accommodate a building. An independent board of trustees would be appointed to oversee and manage the "wayes" and the public waterfront boardwalk, which had been built while the lawsuit wound its way through the courts.

Jones hopped a flight to Los Angeles and on March 26 got Harris' signature on a settlement. He flew right back, and on March 27 the NRA held a special meeting to ratify the agreement.

"There was a sense of urgency," Jones said. "We felt we needed to get it done."

At last, the path seemed clear to bring development to the waterfront.

Or maybe not.

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