To the editor:

I have been a loyal customer of the Institution for Savings for the last 30 years, and love banking there.

The architectural beauty of the building, the friendliness of the staff, and its generous corporate partnership with many community nonprofits all contribute to its appeal. It’s a local bank, and it takes care of its customers.

However, the bank’s attempt to win Planning Board approval to build an addition that would negatively impact the abutting historic neighborhood has gone far beyond what is reasonable and rational.

It has presented the project at numerous Planning Board meetings, and has been sent away every time to consider its abutters and revise its plans. We have all watched with alarm as our community bank squares off against our neighbors in an escalating confrontation.

At the last meeting, a Planning Board member noted that there has not been as much public opposition to a project since New England Development’s Waterfront West. And that’s saying something.

Superimposed on this situation is the COVID-19 virus, which was not in play when IFS first announced its plans in January and could not have been anticipated.

Now, businesses are closing, many Newburyporters have lost their jobs, and there is real financial hardship in the community. Even if the plan were approved tomorrow, it would be unseemly and insensitive for IFS to spend millions of dollars on an expansion project that is widely perceived as excessive while many struggle to afford the basic necessities of food and shelter for their families.

An embarrassment of riches in a suffering community is, if nothing else, simply bad image management. This should not be the bank’s legacy to its community, especially in light of its bicentennial celebration this year.

The bank would do well to withdraw the expansion application now, and spare itself and its reputation from further harm.

Joyce Abugov

Newburyport

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