, Newburyport, MA

August 20, 2013

Money decides NRA's massive waterfront mall

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

In July COW, Committee For an Open Waterfront, presented the NRA with a professionally designed, landscape concept of “No New Buildings” on our 4.2-acre waterfront site targeted for development. The proposed NRA buildings cover a footprint of over half a football field, 70,000 square feet of three massive buildings 45-50 feet tall obstructing views of the river.

The NRA argues that tax dollars are what matter most, $300,000 yearly in new property taxes from 62 condos is their consultant’s quote. This windfall is $22 a year per taxpayer. Shall we give away our historic waterfront for $22 yearly per person? Should we sacrifice parking?

The COW landscape concept includes 350 parking spaces; currently we have 370. The NRA plan parks 172 cars. The combined seats in the new Ale House, The Black Cow and the Firehouse auditorium total 862, about 431 cars parking in 86 east lot spaces. There will be a parking revenue loss of $50,000 a year with three new buildings, exactly what the city pays to maintain the existing Market Landing Park area.

The NRA publicly scoffed at COW’s 168-page study of $18.8 million in grants available to fund a $2 million landscaped park/parking concept. Experienced COW members offering to obtain the necessary grants were rudely dismissed by the NRA seeking off-street, underground parking spaces for 64 cars to satisfy Chapter 91.

A Wood’s Hole geologist documents sea level rise at 7 to 24 inches by 2050. Goodbye, new buildings not on stilts. Smoke and mirrors from an irresponsibly misguided NRA board calling our waterfront “blighted” to justify their existence. Five mayors’ NRA appointments determined to sell/give away our open waterfront to shopping mall developers.

The majority of the City Council and 90 percent of the often-polled voters of Newburyport want to keep our waterfront open. A cost/benefit analysis shows that 98 new property owners will cost the city $504,584 in city services, based on the 2012 city budget of $50 million divided by a population over 18 years of 13,638. Deduct the $300,000 projected tax revenue and the cost to Newburyport is $304,584 yearly for the proposed condo-retail units.

There are two elephants in the development room. The 70,000-square-foot buildings gobbling up existing parking requires 431 additional spaces. The second elephant is 62 new units generating $300,000 in new taxes, which equals $22 a year per resident. Who would not pay $ 22 yearly for the pleasures of a free-open waterfront park?

The loss forever of our historic waterfront to three massive, privately owned buildings will harm everyone and cost us taxpayers. Smoke and mirrors with false dollar signs.


COW member, Newbury