, Newburyport, MA

December 12, 2013

Our view: Some observations from Newburyport, Amesbury

Newburyport Daily News

---- — A few observations from this week:

It was good to see the Newburyport City Council put its stamp of approval on a zoning amendment that is intended to speed along the development of a downtown hotel.

The move will expedite the planning process for a hotel in the area of Titcomb and Merrimac streets, on property owned by developer Steve Karp.

The city and Karp’s local development group have been talking for months about the conceptual plan for the hotel. It’s a long-awaited concept that can arguably provide benefits to Newburyport, though it is hard to completely endorse it until a detailed plan is presented.

The need for a downtown hotel was identified in the 1960s, in the earliest days of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority. It was one of the centerpieces of the NRA’s original plans to redevelop the waterfront. The days of a major development on the NRA land is clearly past, but the need for a hotel — and the foot traffic it will draw to the downtown throughout the year — remains.

We need look no farther than Newburyport’s coastal twin, Portsmouth, N.H., to see the economic benefits that a hotel provides. They create jobs and provide a customer base for downtown restaurants and shops. And they add a vibrancy that a tourist-driven downtown needs.

The public has not seen the design for Karp’s hotel, nor is it clear what other side deals may come of this — for instance, a small parking garage for city use. We look forward to seeing these details.

A story earlier this week on plans to crack down on recycling in Amesbury turned some heads. While no one wants officials snooping around in their trash, we think these kinds of “crackdowns” add some much-needed attention to the logic of recycling, and the need for residents to embrace it.

This crackdown is part of a statewide initiative to reduce the amount of trash sent to incinerators and increases the amount of recycled materials. There is also a cost benefit to taxpayers — Newburyport and Amesbury both have trash removal contracts in place that reward the cities for recycling. In Amesbury, where “high taxes” is the much uttered battlecry, recycling is a simple and tangible thing that every resident can do to improve the situation. Often we hear the complaint that people feel helpless to control the costs of local government. Here is one small thing that people can do that will have a real impact.

While we are on the subject of good recycling habits in Amesbury, it appears that the Amesbury City Council will soon join the ranks of cities and towns across the nation that have passed ordinances allowing local residents to have a handful of chicken hens in their yards. That’s a good and positive step for Amesbury.

Chickens are perhaps the best natural practitioners of sound and healthy habits of recycling, pest control, fertilizer control and even lawncare. By their very nature, they hunt and eat bugs and pests, they hungrily gobble up leftover food waste, their fertilizer is renowned as one of the best sources of soil nutrients, and they tend to nibble on lawns in an even manner that gives grass a mowed look. Worries about noise, smell and sanitation are nearly non-existent compared to the natural benefits that hens provide in suburban yards. And we haven’t even mentioned the fantastic eggs they lay.

Amesbury has done a very good job embracing the arts and cultural communities, and accommodating upstart enterprises. Backyard chickens are part of a new and innovative wave of suburban life, and would fit in well with the branding that Amesbury is trying to establish.