To the editor:

Newburyport deserves better.

Even if you live beyond Newburyport’s historic downtown, it’s important to pay attention to the June 22 Planning Board meeting over the Institution for Savings’ proposed 16,000-square-foot, two-story-plus addition to its State Street headquarters.

The Planning Board may be the final arbiter concerning the two-year-plus ordeal. The proposed mediation settlement astoundingly keeps the massive size of the addition the same.

If approved, the bank will build a huge building replete with parking garage in the heart of a historical residential areas along Otis Place, and Prospect and Garden streets.

If the Planning Board rejects the proposed settlement and follows the well-researched and wise vote of the previous Planning Board of March 17, 2021, the matter will resume in Land Court where a judge will rule one way or another.

Should he rule for the bank, the city will be able to appeal and have the merits of this case heard by a new judicial panel before the Massachusetts Appeals Court.

Beyond the litigation, however, the Planning Board ruling will also impact how Newburyport constituents regard local city government. If members vote for the settlement, they will be known as the board that undermined the Downtown Overlay District (DOD), its own city ordinance, and our volunteer boards.

Specifically, remember the below:

• It’s no secret that the previous mayor, who spoke in favor of the IFS expansion before the Planning Board, was on the city’s negotiating team.

• It’s alarming that the negotiating team then agreed to not discuss the size of the addition – the main issue why the bank was denied its special permit by the Planning Board in the first place – before mediation discussion even began!

• It’s now no secret that with four new Planning Board members and a tight deadline of June 24, the board is being pressured into making a harried and uninformed decision – as evidenced during the June 1 meeting that some members have had insufficient time to study the issue.

Given the above facts, there is only one reasonable and just vote on June 22: Reject the settlement so it will go back to court. Doing so will give Planning Board members the necessary time for due diligence and make a fair decision.

Planning Board members: Please reject this settlement.

Newburyport deserves better.



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