, Newburyport, MA

December 31, 2013

Our view: A Daily News wishlist for 2014

Newburyport Daily News

---- — As we take one last look back at the issues that dominated our headlines in 2013, The Daily News looks forward to the new headlines we will write in 2014. Here are some of the key issues that we will be following — and hoping that these issues will finally be resolved in a positive manner.

Newburyport: The city has been riding a high tide for the last few years, despite the economic downturn. It is blessed to be facing problems that other communities might wish to have.

Key among the issues we hope to see resolved in the fate of the Central Waterfront. For nearly 50 years the city has struggled to find the right formula that will work on this valuable centerpiece of the city’s waterfront. In 2012 and 2013, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority presented and adjusted its plans to build three-story buildings on the land and preserve the bulk of it as a park. But the results of the November election made clear that most Newburyporters don’t want what the NRA is pursuing.

The NRA has now backed off on its plans, and it appears now that a consensus is building toward developing the land into a park with adequate parking lots. Our view is that it is time for the NRA to disband and turn the land over to the city, so that the substantial resources and finances of City Hall can be focused on this vital project.

Plum Island: Erosion has been, and continues to be, one of the key issues facing the barrier island. Last winter released brutal storm-powered poundings along a mile-long section of the island that led to the destruction of six homes, and severe erosion along the beachfront of two dozen other homes.

The damaged dunes have been rebuilt, but there is little that can stop a storm surge when driven by a powerful nor’easter. It can be expected that more erosion damage will occur this winter.

The island has no long-term salvation, as long as sea levels continue to rise. But there are short-term solutions. One is the repair of the south jetty, which is underway now. It is expected to be completed by early spring. This repair is expected to change the erosion patterns on the island in a favorable way.

A more substantial aid could come from tens of thousands of tons of sand that are expected to be dumped off the island. This sand comes from New Hampshire’s Piscataqua River, which will be undergoing a significant dredging within the next three years. That is a long time to wait, but hopefully the anti-erosion techniques that have been applied to the island thus far will hold until then.

Amesbury: The city has had one of the most grueling elections it has ever seen. Mayor-elect Ken Gray has emerged the victor by a margin of a mere three votes. Neither of the two dominant political groups in Amesbury have a majority of power on the City Council.

This could be a recipe for disaster, given the turmoil that has occurred in the city’s past when these two political blocs have faced off. However, we feel that Gray has a genuine desire to bridge the gap and work with both sides toward a common goal — improving the city’s schools and controlling its taxes. Gray has been careful to reach out to both camps, to articulate his visions and, most importantly, to enter office with a degree of patience.

This will be a year of transition in Amesbury. Both sides will have to work together for the common good. We think that both sides have an earnest interest in building on Amesbury’s progress. It will be up to them to show the public that they can work together, because the public will surely be watching closely.

Salisbury: For years Salisbury Beach has been eyed for a major rehab. In 2007 the well-respected Thomson Group proposed a plan that would tear down much of the beach center and rebuild it in a style more in keeping with its Victorian roots, and geared toward year-round living. That plan withered as key landowners refused to sign on.

This year, another plan has emerged. It focuses on a slightly smaller area, but seeks to accomplish the same basic goals. Most importantly, it is being proposed by local developers including Wayne Capolupo, a Salisbury resident who has successfully redeveloped the beachfront Pavilion and other beach area developments. This may finally be the plan that changes Salisbury Beach. We will see.

We wish all of our readers a Happy New Year.