, Newburyport, MA


July 18, 2014

Time to take stand vs. development

To the Editor:

The developers are coming!

The developers are coming!

If Paul Revere were to make his famous ride today, and head north of Boston instead of west, he’d be able to see what was ahead of him very clearly. Route 1 runs in pretty much a straight line once it crosses the Mystic River, and stays that way heaven only knows how far with one exception: the blind curve just past the Hill Street traffic light, diagonally across the road from Haley’s.

Mr. Revere might have to pull his horse up pretty short as he approached that curve, if the development proposed for the 1.5 acre of land just beyond it -- the sand pit -- gets the go-ahead from the ZBA and planning boards. BC Realty Trust would like quite a large number of special permits and variances to build 12 apartment units on that site, with parking for 24 cars, i.e., 24 cars that would pull into a traffic stream traveling at -- at the very least -- the 45-mph speed limit. Any driver who has attempted to enter Route 1 northbound from Cherry Street, just past the traffic circle, knows how hazardous that experience would be.

It may go without saying that an apartment complex at this location has Back Bay residents up in arms, and justifiably so. There would be more traffic on the neighborhood streets, an increase of noise and emissions, a loss of the natural tree line buffer against busy Route 1, and a disruption of the peaceful atmosphere of the southwestern corner of Highland Cemetery. (People with family plots there, take note.) A housing development of this size is simply out of character with the Back Bay; it would destroy the fabric of the neighborhood.

These are issues that have a direct bearing only on the Back Bay. But the unsafe traffic conditions the proposed development would create would affect everyone traveling north on Route 1. It would make navigating the increased traffic anticipated by the construction of new retail facilities at the Low Street/Storey Avenue intersection seem like a walk in the park. At least there are traffic lights at that junction.

Paul Revere alerted the colonists to the advancing British army. In Newburyport today, residents are, of necessity, becoming increasingly vigilant against the encroachment of unwarranted, unnecessary and unwanted development backed by its own municipal government.

One of these days, there will be a lantern or two shining forth from the steeple of the Unitarian church.

Eileen Shapiro


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