, Newburyport, MA

February 1, 2013

NRA plan offers larger park, more tax money

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Reading through all the vitriol contained in the latest barrage of anti-NRA letters, one would think that the NRA is looking to wall off the waterfront at the expense of all who currently visit the dirt lots to enjoy the view.

However, if one moves past the rhetoric and examines the NRA’s plan, it’s clear that nothing could be further from the truth. The plan calls for doubling the size of the waterfront park while preserving a substantial amount of parking. Yes, the plan also calls for two buildings on the NRA land. However, the buildings are in keeping with the size and architectural style of what already exists downtown. Furthermore, the buildings are sited away from the waterfront, near Merrimac Street, in areas that are currently part of a blighted, dirt wasteland. They are also placed to maximize view corridors to the water from the street.

The reason the buildings are part of the plan is simple. It’s to pay for the park’s expansion and make a unified connection of the waterfront to the downtown. By selling or leasing the property to a developer, the proceeds can be used to fund the expansion of the park and create an endowment for its maintenance. The urban design firm, The Cecil Group, estimated that it would cost over $5 million to create a park with landscaped parking on the NRA property. Estimates for annual maintenance are near $100,000. Given the tax burden we all face, are we ready to vote for another override to pay for the expansion and maintenance of the waterfront park? The NRA’s plan is intended to keep Newburyport property owners from having to dig deeper into their pockets yet again. To the contrary, as a result of the completion of the NRA’s plan, Newburyport will see an increase in revenue from property taxes paid by the owners of the properties.

For over 30 years, Newburyport has missed out on the opportunity to have both a larger waterfront park and an aesthetically pleasing development of the NRA property. It has also missed out on 30 years of property tax revenue that could have been used employ more teachers, fix sidewalks and beautify the city. I encourage anyone who would like to see something better than the status quo on the dirt lots join others in supporting the NRA’s plans. Otherwise, resign yourself to another 30 years of stagnation on the waterfront lots. What a shame that would be for all of us and anyone who visits our community.

John G. Morris