, Newburyport, MA


February 28, 2013

NRA should be disbanded

It’s time the Newburyport Redevelpoment Authority wakes up and smells the 21st century.

The city sure did need redevelopment decades back. When I moved to Marlboro Street in 1987, neighbors told us of the days when banks would not even talk to them about a home mortgage in that neighborhood. Old-timers called that end of High Street “down along,” and it had been down all right. Andre Dubus III of Newbury describes those days in his “Townie – A Memoir.”

Redevelopment didn’t happen by just following the one-size-fits-all plan passed down from Washington. The authority started down the tear-it-all-down path, but then redirected its efforts — after listening to the people — and saved the historic city center.

During the decades since, Newburyport residents, and folks like me for whom the Port is my urban center, have grown to love the open waterfront and have resisted repeated efforts to construct buildings on it. Clearly, the NRA in 2013 is an anachronism that should be disbanded as soon as possible, after deeding its property to the city, leaving elected officials and citizens to consider the waterfront’s future.

Now Mayor Donna Holaday is seeking a compromise, just as she did with the proposed historic district. However, as important as compromise is, it isn’t always possible, as was the case with the recent proposed historic district and as is true with the waterfront.

The atmosphere isn’t right for finding a middle ground either, with the authority opening itself to charges of violating the state Open Meeting Law by giving at least the appearance of having some of its deliberations outside of a public meeting. Newbury and Newburyport officials haven’t done local governments’ rating any favors either by clamping a lid of secrecy on problems with the Plum Island water and sewer system.

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