NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Opinion

February 8, 2013

NRA plans need state approval

To the editor:

I’d like to clarify a misconception regarding the NRA’s future plans. Many citizens seem to believe that an expansion of the park is a gift from the NRA. Indeed it is not! In order for improvements of any kind to be made on the NRA’s waterfront lots, the plans have to be approved by the state, a requirement of Chapter 91 of the Commonwealth laws that regulates waterfront property. Chapter 91 requires that the property adjacent to the berm must be reserved for waterfront uses only; parking next to the berm is a violation of Chapter 91. Nothing can be done on the NRA lots, including simply paving them, unless the changes are in compliance with Chapter 91, which requires an expansion of the berm.

As to financing a park in the future: The Waterfront Trust requires a bit more than $100,000 a year to maintain its park, funds that the trust raises rather easily through parking revenues, commercial docking fees and fees for events. The trust presently enjoys a surplus in its accounts.

The NRA, it is rumored, earns more than $70,000 a year from parking fees, so it needs only about $40,000 more a year to pay for park maintenance. If the beer hall proposed on the Davis Auto property is ever built, think about the parking fees such a facility could generate to pay for park maintenance.

One of the troubling aspects of the NRA having the power to determine the future of the waterfront lots is that four members are appointed by the mayor and the fifth is appointed by the governor, always in consultation with the mayor. The fact that these are non-elected individuals makes Newburyporters feel that the process is in violation of democratic principles because the residents are not part of the process. If the property were “owned” by the city, then changes to the property would have to get City Council approval; the 11 councilors are elected. Public input would matter. The city can easily and cheaply own these lots simply by exercising its power of eminent domain. It will cost nothing, except the legal fees for filing the condemnation papers. There are no legal restrictions on the city’s right to condemn the property.

Janet K. Marcus

Newburyport

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NRA Waterfront Plans