Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 2012: Updates from City Councillor Ed Cameron, City of Newburyport

Updates from City Councillor Ed Cameron, City of Newburyport

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This rezoning ordinance has been reintroduced by Councillors Connell and Derrivan.  The fresh start was because the Council did not pass the ordinance within the prescribed time limit; the saga started in the last term and is continuing this term.  A change in zoning requires 8 votes of the 11 City Council members.

I’ve said several times that I've gotten more constituent feedback on this than the meals tax, paid parking, wind turbine, and dogs combined.   And I just was asked my opinion last night at Market Basket.  Overwhelmingly the initial feedback was opposed to this change in zoning.   

When this ordinance was reintroduced a few weeks ago, I spoke about why I am against the rezoning based on the current proposal.  I've been open to new information. There are good reasons to support the change particularly as it relates to open space.   It might but good for open space and the current property owners and the developer and the City would get some financial ‘sweeteners’ of approximately $65,000 but I still feel as I did on November 14th:

the traffic of an intense use on Storey Ave with an in-out only on Storey will be too dangerous

The proposed usage including a drive-thru pharmacy for the rezoned lots is too intensive for an already chaotic intersection.   I don’t think a CVS will bring added traffic to the area.  I don’t think it will be dangerous most times of the day.  But at peak periods of the work day, it is dangerous and it will be made MORE dangerous.  Turn into the Atria at 5:30pm, go down into the property, turn and try to pull out and try to take a left--this will be what like pulling out of a CVS...multiplied by many more cars than go in and out of the Atria or Russell Terrace.  The developer's ideas on traffic mitigation, essentially a suicide lane in the middle of Storey Ave., don’t really address the issue.  As one constituent told me, this proposal turns purgatory into a full-fledged hell.   The developers need to work out another egress.  The most recent news articles seem to indicate they are discussing with the Woodman purchasing land to make that happen.  The most natural egress from the potential CVS to Low Street, the lot of 255 Low Street, was sold in the fall of 2011interestingly, especially since I recall the Minco For Sale sign being there for about 4 years.

Anyway, one of the arguments for the rezoning:
If we don’t do it, a separate developer will move in, make a deal with the Woodmans, and put 150 unit rental units, a 40B project, on Low Street.  My thought: any developer that expects to build units on a property that is largely wetlands next to the notorious and noxious Crow Lane landfill is going to have a tough marketing project ahead.  What will they call it to attract renters?  Stinky Swampy Village might be a more apt name than Seaport Village.  I also have a pop question for any traffic engineers out there: what is going to cause more in and out traffic, a CVS with drive through pharmacy or 150 units of rental housing?

Another argument for the rezoning:
If we don’t do it, Tropic Star will squeeze a CVS on the parcels that are currently zoned commercial.  My thought: If I vote Yes, a CVS gets built.  If I vote No, a CVS gets built.

Another argument for rezoning:
Making these two parcels commercial will ‘harmonize’ the zoning because the area is already overwhelmingly oriented to business.  My thought: This argument ignores the fact that hundreds of people live in the Woodman Way area, the Russell Terrace Area, and the large apartment buildings on Storey and Low.

Like Councillor Cronin, I feel that we need to take a longer harder look at the whole area. I'd be open to something like a zoning overlay or at least a real planning effort around traffic flow and uses.  We need better planning tools for an area which has many contrasting uses.  Surely it would be in Tropic Star and other property owners’ best interest as well.

CVS has sited 354 stores in Massachusetts. Tropic Star has a track history of getting CVS projects approved in places like Amesbury, Salisbury, and Concord, New Hampshire.  And from what I've been able to determine, they are able to grind it out.   I'm sure they can do better than what has been presented so far.

The Daily News article from the beginning of the saga is here.

Property Owners in the Proposed Newburyport Local Historic District
Got Questions about the Proposed LHD?  

Get the answers at two
Public Information Forums at the
City Hall Auditorium

1.  Ask the Experts – Monday, 19 March 2012 at 7:00 P.M.
Preservation lawyer Marilyn Fenollosa, preservation consultant Gretchen Schuler, and Massachusetts Historical Commission Director of Local Government Programs Chris Skelly will answer your questions about LHDs in general, preservation law, and additional preservation options among other topics.

2.  Follow-up – Monday, 26 March 2012 at 7:00 P.M.
Informal discussion groups with Study Committee members.
Send in your questions to or
Local Historic District Study Committee
City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

Information from the City is at

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