NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 17, 2013

Clearing up myths about NRA

Patricia Dorfman
Newburyport Daily News

---- — Ok, enough pot shots! It’s time for a dose of clarity and facts regarding the NRA and the Central Waterfront. After careful consideration, and to avoid being “swift boated” by a small group of passionate people, I decided that as the longest seated member of the Redevelopment Authority, I should dispel some of the myths regarding the “concept plan” adopted by the NRA.

Myth 1

The NRA is against an Open Waterfront.

Fact

All members of the NRA have expressed their interest in significantly expanding the “openness” of the Waterfront. The concept voted upon unanimously by the NRA calls for opening up the park area by an additional 30-40% above its current size and decreases the amount of space used for parking lots on the waterfront by 40-50%.

Opinion

I believe the difference in opinion here is about what constitutes open space. I do not believe that dirt, or paved, or “flexible space” parking lots constitute open space. I believe that a view of lovely architecture, and a significantly larger park that is activated year round, is aesthetically preferable to most folks, than gazing from the boardwalk at a sea of cars in the summer, and a windy tundra in the winter. Even from the street, the gap between the Firehouse and the bottom of Green Street has the appearance of a missing tooth.

Myth 2

The NRA is selling public land.

Fact

Historically, the NRA property was privately owned blighted property that was purchased by public funds and turned over to the NRA. The options for the disposition of the land by the NRA are clearly outlined by the statute empowering Redevelopment Authorities. On the other hand, the “ways to the water” are public lands. Those ways are protected by law, and are not threatened in any way by our “concept design.”

Opinion

The fact that the blighted land was purchased with public funds, and turned over to the NRA, may be at the root of arguments around whether or not the property is in fact public. The statute that empowers the NRA is very clear. The title to the land was transferred to the NRA under that statute, with the disposition of that land to be guided by that statute.

Myth 3

The NRA’s Mission Statement is out of date.

Fact

The Mission Statement that is recited at the beginning of every NRA meeting is a direct quote from the statute that empowers Redevelopment Authorities to act in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Newburyport Redevelopment Authority has been commended by the Commonwealth Department of Housing and Community Development for making this statute an integral part of its strategic plan by including its reading at every business meeting.

Opinion

I believe that it is important to remind the members of the NRA at the beginning of every meeting why the NRA was entitled to take this land in the first place, as well as what its responsibilities are in finishing this project in an economically responsible fashion that will benefit this City, without putting additional burden on our tax-paying citizens.

There will always be conspiracy theorists with busy pens, but the truth is available to all who care to examine the legitimate sources. The concept plan presented by Union Studios to an overwhelmingly positive crowd last September, is available to be viewed on the the City web site at cityofnewburyport.com under NRA Waterfront Redevelopment. You can also visit the NRA blog site as well at www.newburyportra.blogspot.com for current information regarding where we are in the RFP process and where you can find a YouTube video of the September Union Studios presentation of the “concept design”.

I have been listening and talking to people for ten years now about completion of our central waterfront. The “concept plan” adopted by the NRA has widespread support in the community. “The plan” represents a vast improvement over the status quo and provides a wonderful link between our beautiful downtown and waterfront. I look forward to using this “concept plan”, along with the advice from our panel of experts, to guide us in the creation of a thorough and thoughtful “request for proposal”, that can be marketed to the top developers in the country.

“The mission of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority is to revitalize blighted or deteriorated areas of the city by attracting the private investment needed to achieve a balanced mix of housing, business, and public/open space in a manner that provides socio-economic benefits to the city by providing jobs for the unemployed, and adding tax revenue to an overburdened community.”

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Patricia Dorfman is the secretary of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority.