, Newburyport, MA

October 29, 2013

Kezer has the vision needed for Millyard project

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

As an environmental professional for over 25 years, I have seen a number of projects attempting to foster development through the reuse of distressed properties. Mayor Kezer’s approach to the revitalization of the Lower Millyard in the heart of downtown Amesbury is a model of the way it should be done.

After arriving in Amesbury a few years ago, I attended town meetings on a regular basis to learn about the community. I was impressed with Mayor Kezer’s approach and understanding of just what it takes to put an abandoned, underutilized and contaminated property — a brownfield — back into productive use. Communities around the country are faced with the blight of these vacant landscapes. Not only are they an eyesore, but they also present real environmental danger and an economic drain to the community. Most people do not know that contaminated property in a city weighs against a municipality’s credit and bond rating. There is often a posture of waiting for the “private sector” to solve the problem. In my experience, unless you’re sitting on a major portion of Manhattan, this never happens. The spark to act has to come from a vision and through forward-thinking leadership at the local government level.

Mayor Kezer has demonstrated the vision and the leadership a project like this requires for success. The mayor has a plan, and he has been able to generate a momentum for that plan through his ability to communicate and bring the right elements together to solve the problem. Brownfields require a team of people working in partnership with the community in mind. Mayor Kezer has brought together citizens, property owners and both the commonwealth and the federal government to help Amesbury move forward.

Not only are they working together through the Lower Milyard Task Force and the Brownfields Support Team, they are also bringing to the table money to execute the plan. As the project unfolds, contaminated soil will be removed, infrastructure will be built or improved upon, and buildings will be renovated. All of this work will lead to a revitalized Lower Millyard providing the residents of Amesbury with access to the waterfront, jobs and much needed tax revenues to support the community. In place of blight, Amesbury will have a museum highlighting its heritage and a center for visitors along the Riverwalk.

Thomas Barrasso