Why a Smart Growth District is Smart

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the city council is set for Tuesday, September 15. (The Monday date was changed due to the first night of Rosh Hoshanah.)

The planning and development committee is tentatively removing for discussion a proposal to create an overlay district on land proximate to the train station. Here are links to the proposed text (as of June 8, 2015, though some of this language has since changed), submission documents to the state, and responses to frequently asked questions.

This is a screenshot of the smart growth district.

Numerous residents contacted me to share their thoughts both for and against the proposed district. But, at the end of the day, this district is defined by a set of laws. And, laws can be changed. If the city (or council) doesn’t like where things are going in the future, the laws can be amended and/or deleted.

I heard arguments that infrastructure could be impacted, from water input to sewer output to school classrooms to increased vehicles. Officials responded that those claims are merely claims and the facts don’t support them. Life will continue. Change is healthy and this particular change will be non-disruptive.

This is why I’m ready to vote in support of the proposal. And — because it’s smart. Unlike other overlay districts in Newburyport, this district is built around the train station. It’s a transit-oriented district. It’s intended to promote pedestrian and bicycle transportation. It’s predicted to create more frequent train schedules. It’s guaranteed to create local bus service and improve regional bus service.

This proposed district will be a neighborhood in and of itself, connected to the rest of the city the same way existing neighborhoods are connected — but not merely by roads but by walkways, pathways, and smarter connections.

I have a few lingering questions about transportation issues pertaining to the rotary but those are issues that will be answered in time. The Merrimack Valley Planning Commission intends to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the Route 1 corridor, including the rotary, for dissemination next year. They will work with the state highway department and suggest areas for improvement. The MVPC already recognizes the rotary needs to change to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access.

This smart growth district had its genesis long before I was elected; and as I approach the end of my six years on the council, I’m ready to vote yes. It’s the smart vote.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts…

OK, NRA, You Win

Because the majority of city councilors for whatever reasons don’t want to force you to vote on dissolving yourselves, I’m shoving my foot in my mouth and shutting up.

The city planner made it abundantly clear that even if you do vote to dissolve, there are about three years of obligations that need to occur while you’re still active. I assume it would be closer to five years. That’s good timing because I predict the pending intermodal garage above Titcomb Street won’t open sooner than 2019.

Here’s what I predict: the garage opens, then the NRA dissolves, then New England Development starts building their hotel and/or other properties in the so-called Waterside West area stretching from the Black Cow to the bridge. They might fix up Waterside East too in the vicinity of Oldies.

I will continue to stand up for what I believe to be the majority of residents in this city who want you to go away but I recognize it’s not going to happen in the near future so you won’t get any fight from me. Let’s work together to improve the waterfront without building commercial or residential structures; and everyone wins.