To the editor:
I would like to respond to the recent letter by the chair of the Committee for an Open Waterfront, Ms. Elizabeth Heath.
It is essential for the public to know that the meetings of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority (NRA) (a volunteer board) are open to the public, and like City Council meetings, there is a time allotted for public comment. Ms. Heath and others from her group have been in attendance at a number of meetings but have chosen to remain silent when given a chance to share their views and concerns. Other citizens have attended our meetings and made their thoughts and desires known. To state that the public has been shut out is not factual.
The two meetings referenced in the letter were working sessions with our consultant team, the mayor and members of her staff, myself and one other member of the NRA. The purpose of these meetings was to define the data needed to bring informed and accurate information to the public, and other matters such as: who is responsible for what tasks and when they need to be accomplished, and how billing and other administrative matters will be handled. Although these administrative sessions were not open to the public, the results and substance were made public at our next regular meeting in a report to the rest of the board, and we look forward to sharing with the public the product of the work over the coming weeks and months.
It is also very important for all to remember that the NRA property was part of a larger urban renewal effort and was in fact densely developed private property that was taken by eminent domain for the express purpose of redevelopment. The NRA is working diligently to fulfill its mission to bring about a redevelopment of the property that will, in the words of our mission statement, "achieve a balanced mix of housing, business and public/open space." Our goal is to create a project that will enhance the waterfront and be an asset to the city and its residents. Any plan we ultimately put forth will preserve public access to the river and expand the waterfront park. Appropriately scaled and designed buildings with active ground-floor use along the edge of the park, such as that currently existing at the Firehouse Center, will enhance the park's vitality as well as help pay for the expansion and maintenance of the public park on the waterfront.
The NRA welcomes the public to attend our meetings. To learn more, please visit our blog at www.newburyportra.blogspot.com, or visit the city website at www.cityofnewburyport.com.
James G. Shanley, Chair
Newburyport Redevelopment Authority