, Newburyport, MA


November 19, 2012

Central waterfront for public use only

To the editor:

I oppose the NRA proposal for private development on public lands. Once public land is sold or leased and commercial/residential development commences, our public land is gone for good. There will be no future opportunity to expand the park. The NRA is not only making a decision for ourselves but for future generations.

For 20-plus years the people of Newburyport have consistently opposed private development of the NRA land including proposals for shops, condominiums and at one time a hotel. The issue of development on the waterfront was clearly presented in the 2008 mayoral election when Mayor Holaday reflected public sentiment by supporting an open waterfront when she ran for mayor against her opponent, NRA chairman James Shanley.

Subsequently, at an NRA meeting in December 2009, she stated unequivocally her opposition to private development on the waterfront lands. Check the minutes of the meeting. Yes, private development might bring additional revenue to the city as could many proposals sacrificing public assets. For example, the city could sell Cashman Park to a developer eager to put it to “higher use.”

The point is to think carefully about what we really want and need. During the years when opposition to private development intensified, the demographics of the city were different; in fact, the population was considerably less affluent. So why are we so eager to sell off public land now?

Those opposed to private development are not advocating retention of dirt-covered parking lots. Allow citizens to present alternative low-maintenance proposals with the emphasis on enjoyment of the marine landscape and human activity. Good choices with development occurring on private property adjacent to the public lands will bring in new revenue. If we wish enhancements or changes in the future, let’s leave the option open. Don’t close it now with private development.

And beware of developer proposals. The reality that follows once profit and loss considerations enter the balance sheet is often very different than the enticing renditions presented in the initial sales concept.

If you agree, consider, the NRA is not an elected body. They are appointed. Let your elected officials know where you stand. They can influence a change of course.

J. P. Fitzsimmons


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