Ward 3 and City Update September 15, 2015

Dear friends and Neighbors:

It has continued to be a busy time here in Newburyport.  40R, NRA, garage, sewer and sidewalks just to scratch the surface.

The taxpayers and residents of Newburyport deserve information in a timely manner.  So to move in that direction the City Council passed a “snow plan” order which I sponsored.  The premise is that DPS present a snow plowing/removal plan to City Council and post it on the City website.  Of course this effort means no snow this winter, but we do have a plan in place and I urge everyone to sign up for alerts on the City website.  These include snow emergencies, road closures, school closures etc.  The plan also outlines the priorities in snow removal to allow residents a better understanding how the DPS operates.

I will be opposing the 40R district but fully support the MINCO proposal at the ill-sited and underutilized MBTA station, if the general proposal is amended.  This project, as well as the entire district will be 25% affordable and mixed use.  The MINCO project will bring 80-rental units to Newburyport.  Our City can manage controlled growth in the so-called traffic circle area and in doing so we maintain local control.  Why controlled growth?  The middle school is at or near capacity and of course there are several other projects underway as well as 40R.  Could unfettered 40R tip the balance?  The answer is yes with an estimated 150 new students at build out.  When will build out occur? No one really knows.  Since this is a transportation district parking requirements will be loosened.  Does less parking in a bedroom community mean less vehicles?  No, people need to food shop, clothes shop and go to appointments. The Little River Transit Village was abandoned 10-years ago when independent (not self-certified city as is the case now) studies cited traffic and water issues.  Could I support a hotel? While that is only one of the uses suggested south of Parker Street, this would bring more flexibility to the industrial/business park.  Currently during peak seasons, business travelers are sometimes housed as far away as Danvers!  Compromise is in order here, Controlled Growth shepherd by the City, not Beacon Hill.

The parking garage?  Still more questions than answers so I continue to ask and listen. 

The Plum Island water and sewer solution grinds on; the City is working on a fix for the smell at the waste water treatment plant (wards 1&2) and the Graf Road sewer lift station is still in need of a major upgrade.  The landfill issue also drags on. 

I continue to hold out hope that the Council will address the disbanding of the NRA.  Disillusionment is a 5-7 year process, let it begin now.  The Council recommends and the then the Mayor cold act.  While admittedly broad brush, we have years to refine and define.  As Winton Churchill stated 75 years ago, “This is not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning”.  This must be our approach.

Communication breakdowns have impacted sidewalk projects throughout the City.  Residents need a clear sense of when projects are going to impact their daily lives, what the process is and how to become involved in it.  Ward Councillors also need the information to do outreach.  Construction projects need to listed on the City website well advance of a start date and neighborhoods contacted in a similar manner.  . 

Finally, I have been contacted by at least a half dozen residents concerned about the “open streets” event planned for September 20.  While yes, some streets will be closed along the Middle Way, every resident will have access to their home to come and go as needed.  There will be volunteers and added Police patrols along the Way in the interest of safety, but to be clear the permit was issued with the full understanding that residents can have full access to their homes as they may require.

As always any questions or comments please just Email or call.

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