To the editor:
Susan Hern’s letter to the editor of Dec. 23 discusses the manner in which the Newburyport City Council approved a zoning change at our last meeting of the year on Dec. 9, a change that will improve the likelihood that any potential hotel or parking garage downtown would have dimensional setbacks similar to the rest of downtown.
While this matter was approved in one meeting on Dec. 9, this amended ordinance was thoroughly vetted by the council. After submission to the council on Sept. 9, it was reviewed and approved at a joint hearing of the Planning Board and the vouncil’s Planning and Development Committee on Nov. 13, and voted on at the council meeting of Nov. 25 with a 6-3 vote for adoption with two councilors absent. Because any ordinance or ordinance amendment requires a supermajority of eight votes, this measure therefore did not pass its first reading.
The next day Councilor Herzog, who had been one of the three “no” votes, the prevailing side, asked for a motion to reconsider. The ordinance change was brought up for a vote again on Dec. 9. It passed by a 10-1 vote with a waiving of the rules to adopt at that meeting. Councilors Cameron, Connell, Cronin, Derrivan, Earls, Heartquist, Herzog, Hutcheson, Jones and President O’Brien voted in favor and Councilor Sullivan voted against.
Rather than “throwing all caution to the wind in favor of one commercial developer,” as Susan Hern suggests, this was a well-vetted zoning change that furthers two projects — a modestly sized hotel built by New England Development on its property and off-waterfront parking developed by the city — that are necessary steps to strengthen our downtown and make improvements to our waterfront park. When we can encourage the kinds of development that citizens want with a simple change, we don’t need to wait another full year for the comprehensive city-wide rezoning process in order to move forward.
Councilor Ed Cameron