, Newburyport, MA


January 24, 2014

Good first step, but lacking transparency

To the editor:

I applaud Mayor Holaday for starting her third term with listening to the city councilors’ views of Union Studio’s proposed plan for our central waterfront. So far the NRA’s single-minded vision of the plan has divided our city between would-be developers and open space preservationists. It also made for a painful mayoral election. Although we know that each councilor was vetted on the waterfront issue before the election, here is another opportunity for the councilors to declare themselves.

Transparency in the public realm strengthens our whole political culture. The NRA has already been legally challenged on hosting closed-door “public meetings,” yet barring the community. This upcoming meeting of city councilors could be the perfect stepping-stone to seeing beyond the NRA (only five city and state-appointed people). It could be seen as a civil hand stretched out to the community, reassuring citizens that they are important to the process, but the meeting is not open.

Other groups that have a stake in our central waterfront are the Harbor Commission, Newburyport Waterfront Trust, COW and New England Development. Will they coordinate their visions for the waterfront in 2014 or continue to act as independent entities?

Newburyport has a combined wealth of research and studies, borings and historical documents, citizen surveys, legal opinions and alternate plans, all made by the above-mentioned groups.

The only research not done to date is 1.) a traffic study, and 2.) an EPA study, the two most likely studies to affect a safe and satisfactory design for commerce and/or recreation on the waterfront.

I am glad the city is taking a positive first step in addressing our complex central waterfront development in the new year. It could be an act of reconciliation too, if it were transparent.

Elizabeth Petty


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