Category Archives: Affordable Housing

The First Draft of the 40R District around the Train Station

I’ve seen the first draft of the new 40R Smart Growth District around the train station.

The proposed 40R District (see previous post) would allow for mixed use buildings near the train station, traffic circle, parts of Rt 1 and the area on lower State Street between Lunt and Kelly and the edge of the cemetery. There is a new updated map (see below), the larger area subdistrict B is zoned for 4 story buildings (45 ft), Subdistricts A and C is zoned for 3 story building (35 ft), and the Minco building would be zoned for 5 stories (55 ft).

Portland-Wikipedia

Four story buildings in Portland Maine, please press image to enlarge.

And I’ve gone on a hunt for some good looking 4 story buildings. I have found only one photo that is in the public domain, it is in Portland Maine.

I’m a little confused about Google’s copyright laws, and WordPress does not allow me to embed Google’s images, so what I’ve done is put links to 4 story buildings in Portland ME, Providence RI and Haverhill MA. Haverhill has, on Washington Street, what I think is a gorgeous, but rundown historic section of 4 story building. I love them.

And when you press on the links for the different cities, you can go on a “Google drive” through the areas and see what you thinks works and what does not work. Interesting stuff. Also, the buildings take a few seconds to show up after you press the links.

Portland Maine’s links can he found here, here, here, here and here.
Providence Rhode Island’s links can be found here, here and here.
Haverhill Mass links can be found here, here and here.

Newburyport-40R-Smart-Growth-Village-District-Map-1-20-2015

Updated 40R Smart Growth Village District map, please press image to enlarge.

In looking at the initial 40R draft (this is just the beginning of a large process that the city will go through) a couple of things stand out.

1) The design review is outstanding. Yah!! I hope that means that the Minco building will be forced to look awesome.

2) There is extensive input into the affordable housing aspect of the district (I’m sure the affordable housing folks with Phd’s in the subject, will have lots of input). It looked great to me.

3) Parking seems a little “skimpy” to me. A residential unit only gets one parking spot. But there is “shared parking,” with businesses and residents, which use parking at different times during the day and week, the objective being not to have lots of wasted, barren parking lots. There are so many people in this city who have Phd’s in parking, and I am not one of them. I am hoping, and pretty sure that they would figure out the “Goldilocks” version of parking, “not too much, not too little, but just right.”

4) The setbacks of the buildings are puzzling to me. There are “no requirements” on setbacks on front, side and rear yards. The way it was explained to me is that there would be no requirements for setbacks for mid-block buildings, but it might be a good idea to look at the setback requirements for intersections (and there seem to me to be a whole lot of intersections). At this point, we do not have close-up renderings of what buildings would look like in different areas of the proposed 40R District.

This is one of my main questions. I can’t imagine 4 story building around the traffic circle where Dunkin’ Donuts is and where the Bird Watcher is located. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to live on that dangerous and noisy area, and being so close to a busy traffic circle. Renderings are definitely needed.

5) Not in the 1st draft, but backup information that would be arriving in the coming weeks that would include:

(1) estimated maximum dwelling units
(2) expected sewer flows (and how to pay for them)
(3) expected traffic impacts
(4) renderings/photo-simulations of new buildings
(5) expected impacts on schools
(6) expected c. 40R and c. 40S payments from the Commonwealth
(7) expected property tax revenues

Newburyport’s 40R District around the Train Station

Newburyport is beginning the process of thinking about rezoning the area around the train station, so that there can be a mix of residential units and businesses. This is called a 40R Smart Growth District. This is nothing new, the city has been talking about this since 2004.

“Chapter 40R, encourages communities to create dense residential or mixed-use smart growth zoning districts, including a high percentage of affordable housing units, to be located near transit stations, in areas of concentrated development such as existing city and town centers, and in other highly suitable locations.”

Here is a 2015 map of the proposed 40R District. It includes the area around Lunt and Kelly, where Dunkin’ Donuts is around the traffic circle, it goes up Rt 1 by Haley’s Ice Cream and includes the proposed building by Minco at the train station.

Newburyport-40R-Smart-Growth-Village-District-Map-12-11-2014-small

The 2015 map of the proposed 40R District (press image to enlarge)

Here are the 2 conceptual drawing that were done in 2004 by the Planning Office. The view is from Parker Street coming from Newbury. The first rendering is the way it looks now, the second rendering, done in 2004 (we don’t have an update yet) is what the proposed 40R District might look like. It’s a little confusing, but if you download the two renderings and put them side by side it becomes a little clearer.

Strategic Land Use Plan-small

The 2004 rendering of how the area looks now (press image to enlarge)

Strategic Land Use Plan2-small

The 2004 rendering of what the 40R District could look like (press image to enlarge).

At the moment there is a certain “rush” to get this 40R District going, because Minco would like to build at the train station (this is nothing new, it has been going on for a while) and has a deadline (which may or may not be flexible). And the city gets money for a 40R District (we always need money).

BUT, I think that it is very important to ask hard questions during this process, and be sure to think things through.

So here are a few of my “hard” questions and concerns and reservations.

1) The Minco design at the train station has to look great. At the moment I haven’t talked to anyone who thinks that it is in anyway acceptable.

2) There needs to be a “design review” for that area. This gateway to the city can’t look awful.

3) Traffic. The maximum buildout, when last I heard was 800 units. Folks that I’ve talked to think that it would be a lot less, more like 500 units. We don’t know the exact numbers yet, but even 400-500 units is a lot.

The 2004 rendering of what the area would look like, seems idyllic to me. There are no cars. If that area were to be built out, at rush hour it would be a complete nightmare.

4) Pedestrian traffic. Even with the rail trail, there is no way to safely and or practically cross either the traffic circle or Route 1 to get downtown, even at the crossing at Rt1 at what is called “Back Bay.” People want to get from the area on foot and they want, and do try to get to State Street, which is insanely dangerous. I think at one point there was an idea for a pedestrian bridge, but, oh my, that would cost so much money.

5) I still can’t envision anyone wanting to live up along Rt1, even with the rail trail there. The view is butt ugly, with Rt1 on onside and a view of the Industrial Park on the other.

6) I also can’t imagine anyone wanting to live around the traffic circle, especially where Dunkin’ Donuts is located. The view towards Newbury as it is now, is lovely. However, I would think living next to a dangerous traffic circle would be unappealing, and figuring out a way to walk from there, much less having a denser number of people trying to exit at that location by car, raises the question of safety to me.

7) The area on State Street.  The intersection where the Court House, Parker Street, State Street and the Traffic Circle intersect is wicked dangerous. I’ve seen really bad accidents there. If that area becomes densely populated, that intersection becomes even more dangerous. And I don’t like the prospect of getting MassDOT involved–Salisbury Square is a cautionary tale for everyone, of what never to do, and of how MassDOT can really mess up an area.

So, I totally get building at the train station if it is done well. And I have a lot of questions about building in the other proposed areas. And I hope, that through this process we don’t ram this through because of Minco’s deadline, and the fact that we would like the money from the state.

Newburyport Carpetbaggers, the 95%

Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

One Newburyport City Councilor (Dick Sullivan) got up in the Newburyport City Council chambers and lamented that all these “newcomers” were coming in and telling the folks who were born and raised here what to do.

Another Newburyport City Councilor (Tom Jones) got up (Thursday night) and said how Newburyport was a working class town, and seemed to intimate that it was still a working class town.  No it’s not. In the year 2012, Newburyport is an upper-middle class city, quickly approaching a upper class enclave – especially when Mr. Karp starts building.

Honey, it ain’t your father’s Newburyport anymore.

If you haven’t noticed the carpetbagger thing has really, really gotten out of hand lately.  You don’t just have the carpetbaggers who came in the first wave, in the mid to late 1970’s and very early 1980’s,  right after Urban Renewal renewed.  There was a wave in the late 1990’s after the MBTA came back to town. Remember that, a big housing spike when a lot of the old timers cashed in.  I remember folks saying  that it was a joke that anyone would want to live in Newburyport’s South End. There was a lot of bitterness about how high the taxes had gotten because of the housing boom, but that money bought more house not so far away, in a place where there weren’t so many doctors, lawyers and financial folks. Where the working class folks felt more comfortable.

And then the super duper influx around 2005, when Mr. Karp bought so much land and real-estate downtown.  Yup, and people have just kept coming, with more and more money, lots more money.  And the old-timers, the natives, they pay attention and they vote, but their numbers just ain’t what they used to be.  It’s not your father’s Newburyport by any stretch of the imagination, no how, no way, any more.

Stephen Karp’s Visit to Newburyport, MA

I wasn’t at Mr. Karp’s visit to Newburyport, MA (see previous post), and having read all the newspaper articles, blogs and having talked to any number for folks, and having put all of that in a stew in my brain, the following “stuff” has emerged.

It does appear that Mr. Karp did good. As Public Relations go, in fact, of all the many, many ways he could have conducted the evening, it was “brilliant.”

To meet folks in person before hand, I gotta tell you, A+. (Does this blogger feel a little bit arrogant giving a developer of Mr. Karp stature, grades that one receives in High School? Yup, she does.) Being the only one to address the audience, relaxed, joking, in shirt sleeves and taking questions–as my son would say, “classic.” Definitely good go’n Mr. Karp.

Stressing public input and public process, on the record no less, well, this blogger likes this big time.

However, there were a few, “wait a moment” moments for moi.

The stress on the city coming up with a solution to the parking issue.

My first thought was, well, we’ve been fighting over this since the automobile first made its appearance, good luck with that one. I guess nothing is ever going to get built on Waterfront West or East. As my mother would say “tant pis,” or French for “too bad.”

And then I thought, hmm, the best proposed location for a parking garage by far, in my opinion, had been on the Lomardi Oil site, on Merrimac Street, behind the Newburyport police station. The Newburyport Planning Office had come up with a pretty awesome design (it failed in the Newburyport City Council at the time by one vote–in hindsight, it appears to be an “oh dear”).

And Mr. Karp has mentioned that he would not be opposed to a public, private enterprise. So 2 great locations on Mr. Karp’s property. Around the Fitness Factory, but even better, a well designed garage right off of Route 1 where the land going down to Michael’s Harborside is, and where I gather the hotel-condominium is being proposed. I think that the citizens of Newburyport, MA might go for a parking garage on that site. I have a feeling however, that that might not give the bang for the buck that Mr. Karp could be looking for.

There was a “ding, ding, ding, ding” going off in my head, hearing that when the question was asked, who on the development team would be the contact person for the Newburyport public on this project, and that at that time, no one had been appointed.

And on the subject of affordable housing, it sounds as if Mr. Karp drew a blank, and our own Nancy Colbert (Newburyport’ Planning Director), came to his rescue.

On his blog, Newburyport According to X, Mr. Npbt X had some interesting observations about Mr. Karp’s audience. What can I say, I wasn’t there. An interesting read.

And it appears that the audience broke down into three separate groups: the “skeptical group,” the “cautiously optimistic group,” and the “can I KYA, leechy group.” All of which, I would imagine, in Mr. Karp’s long career, must seem all very, very familiar.

So welcome to Newburyport, Stephen Karp.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Sticky Dishes

In a large welcoming, bright warm room, company around a morning cup of coffee at a Senior Center.

In conversation it is mentioned that dishes feel smooth, not sticky or gummy as they do in the small two-room apartment.

Heads tilt and brows furrow. Sticky, gummy dishes.

A visit from a friendly face.

The dishes are in the drying rack next to the sink. But they are gummy and sticky with food that is dried on and never been removed.

It is remarked that a generic bar of soap and a washcloth might not work so well, washing dishes.

A light, small bottle of dishwashing liquid and a scrub sponge cut with scissors to comfortably fit a hand, is produced. The liquid is blue. It is alright, it will not leave a blue color, but clean dishes.

Every dish is plunge into warm soapy water and scrubbed with new scrub sponge, rinsed and left to dry. Instructions follow. The dishes are no longer sticky or gummy.

A promise of a follow up visit to check on new dish washing approach. The generic bar of soap and washcloth are left there for familiarity. The new blue dishwashing liquid stands upright by the side of the sink.

A suggestion to wear glasses when washing dishes. Better to see what could be missed.

Relief. The dishes are smooth. Somebody cares.

Probably would not have happened without a sanctuary, where people know the kind of questions to ask, and do not laugh at or ignore, such small issues. A Senior Center.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Numbing Silence

Silence.

Except for the TV. Silence.

On warmer days a walk.

On return, check the answering machine. No calls.

Last sibling, in another state, died.

No one to check in with.

After initial condolences–nothing. No cards, no phone calls.

Pick up the phone, can’t call, not there anymore.

5 degrees out. Two small rooms. Too cold to venture forth.

Later in a big, bright, welcoming, safe space, a timid mention of no calls on the answering machine, or any ringing of the telephone at all. The defining and deafening stillness. The numbing fear that results.

Someone listens and hears about whispers of a chilling emptiness, talks to someone else, and the telephone starts to ring once a day. “Telephone Reassurance” program initiated by a Senior Center.

Something to look forward to.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Spoiled Milk

8:00 o’clock in the evening. Forgotten to eat. Look into the frig. The milk looks odd. Not sure why.

Cream colored clumps at the top of the clear plastic bottle. Don’t know.

2 eggs left. Boiling water, not a good idea. Pot is heavy. Spills and burns.

Too tired to scramble.

Too dark at night, too cold, too difficult to plan ahead. No extra money for a pizza. Box too heavy. Delivery person not like putting it on table. Unhappy, no money for a well deserved tip. What to do with the 7 other pieces?

Cereal. Don’t know about the milk. Water from the tap and Cheerios for dinner.

Losing weight.

In a large brightly lit room, warm faces fuss. Despite a lunch-time meal, look thin.

Correct.

Concern about the odd looking milk. Relief. An explanation. Don’t drink it.

A warm unknown friend comes to look at the refrigerator. Sees it empty.

A plan. A person to help.

Who would know if not for that brightly lit, welcoming, warm place. A Senior Center. Enough time to see the difference, how thin. Someone seems to know what to do.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

A Place to Go

Light bulbs.

No light bulbs.

One more lamp is dark. Confusing. Where to get light bulbs? Who would put the light bulbs in?

Going to a large, open, friendly place. Sitting down and discussing. The subject of the darkness of the small two-room apartment comes up.

Ah, a friend, understands about light bulbs. Someone comes over and discovers the two lamps that are dark, really dark, now that the winter days are short. They know how to screw in light bulbs and suddenly the tiny two rooms are no longer dark and frightening, but light and familiar once more.

Such a small thing, light bulbs, but so important.

And if there was no where to go. To a large welcoming place, filled with voices and familiar faces. Just the TV and two small rooms.

That large welcoming place, a Senior Center. A tonic against fear, loneliness and numbing boredom. Not the same as some small unwelcoming and mostly unused room in a housing facility.

In a country where families are fractured, far away from a family member, who would care, or maybe who could care less. Often there is no family member at all. And life in two small rooms often provides little sense of community, little sense of hope. A sense of abandonment, loneliness and fear.

The days are long. No community center to go to, to share even the slightest and mundane dilemma that rarely anyone would think of. Light bulbs, and what to do when they no longer work.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Community

I know almost absolutely zip about this, and that’s when I usually get myself into mucho trouble, but for some reason I feel compelled to blog on, even though on this one I’m reasonably clueless.

What caught my eye in yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News, February 21, 2006 was the headline, “Seniors want chairs returned to lobby” on page A3.

I remember that there was an article in the Newburyport Daily News a while back about how the chairs were going to be removed from the lobby of the Sullivan Building on Temple Street (for residents 60 and older). And how other plans were being made.

I remember thinking to myself, “Ooops if it was me, I wouldn’t go there.”

There is a lounge on the 8th floor of the Sullivan building, but it would be my bottom dollar guess that it would be rarely used and that the lobby would be the place to gather, greet and socialize.

If it was me, I wouldn’t be going up to the 8th floor, I would want to go where people come and go. Find out what’s going on. Feel connected to the people in the rest of the building.

I come from New York City, and the analogy that I come up with is people leaning out of their window, watching what’s going on, shouting out to the people down below. Or sitting on the stoop talking to people passing by. An easy, organic, human way to connect to the community. And an escape from and very good tonic for loneliness and isolation.

There are new plans for a smaller room downstairs. But it would be my guess that that might not be used as much as the lobby was. It might not have, what I call the “stoop” feeling. Something informal and community connected.

And even if I did live in the Sullivan Building and thought the new room downstairs would be a good idea, knowing how things work, it might take awhile. And I might feel, that that might not be enough time for me. And I might want those few chairs back down in the lobby too, so that I could feel less desolate and more connected to the world in which I had been apart of and contributed to for so many years.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Development along Route 1

Thank goodness for the indepth article, along with photographs, written by Ulrika Gerth in the Newburyport Current, February 16, 2007, on the proposed development in Newbury along Route 1.

The article not only talks about the complexities that Newbury faces, but also puts it in context of the Little River Transit Village and Newbury’s threat from 40B projects.

Whether this is a good development for Newbury and Newburyport or not still remains to be seen, but good solid facts help the public to make an informed decision.

* This possible project has entailed “years of planning.”

* Newbury has been threatened with a shopping mall in that area and a 40B project.

* The proposed plan is for development on 14 acres not 72 acres. The remaining 58 acres would be under a “conservation restriction.”

* This would help protect Newbury from 40B developments as hopefully the numbers for affordable housing would be raised from 3% to more like 10%.

* Newburyport has to Ok the water and sewer for any project like this is to happen. And from what I can make out, we have by no means said “yes.”

* Planning for the Little River Transit Village on our end is very much in the works.

* This project has a long way to go.

* The development “would dramatically change the Route 1 gateway to Newburyport.” The photographs in the Newburyport Current show that what is there now is not exactly “scenic.” There is not enough information yet to know if people would feel that this development would or would not be acceptable.

* It could “potentially attract more business along Route 1.” I’m assuming that means more business South along Route 1, not the planned Little River Transit Village. And if that would be the case the pastoral feeling leading to Newburyport could be diminished. Although from what I can make out, the area South of this proposal is not slated for zoning changes (I am unclear on this point).

* Change and growth are inevitable. My impression is that Newbury’s Town Planner, Judy Tymon, and the Newbury Planning Board appear to be doing everything they can to try and make that growth be as responsible as possible.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Newbury Development on Route 1

I’m going to pass on what I’ve learned about the proposed development by Newbury on Route 1 as I learn more about it.

* Newbury’s financial situation has been described to me as being “desperate” and “in peril.”

* Newbury has almost no income from commercial or industrial business to help support expenses.

* Taxes are almost solely from property taxes.

* Newbury has a large percentage of older folks. A raise in property tax could mean that older folks might have to move.

* Newbury’s Finance Committee and Planning Board are two intelligent and thoughtful groups.

* The town has 3% Affordable Housing. They desperately would like to get that figure to go up towards 10% to qualify for more state help.

* Newbury has been threatened previously with 2 very undesirable projects. I think the town has been threatened with a “40B, landfill transfer center” as well as a “140,000 square-foot shopping center” on this same property. (I need to double and triple check those 2 exact items).
[Editors note: the information on those 2 items has been double checked.]

* Newbury feels that it could work with this developer, Beacon Community Development and is encouraged.

* There was a great deal of positive and receptive feedback from the people who attended the meeting with the developer last week.

* With a cooperative developer, the town of Newbury feels that it is possible to have a positive experience and outcome.

* This is a 40R project, which is different from a 40B project which is different from an Overlay District. From what I understand so far (and I am on a steep learning curve here) an Overlay District gives more control to the town, but a 40R gives more state help, however, less control. There is such a thing as a friendly 40R or even friendly 40B where the town and developer work together.

* Something will be built on that property. The town of Newbury is hoping for the best possible outcome.

* This would be part of the Little River Transit Village proposed project.

* This would not prevent Newburyport from going ahead with its plans for the Little River Transit Village. As I understand it (and again, I am on a steep learning curve here) the reason for the Little River Transit Village for Newburyport is to control growth and to minimize inappropriate growth in other areas of Newburyport, MA.

* The acreage that could be built on is 14 acres not 72 acres. I gather the parcel itself is 72 acres. As I understand it the hope is to preserve open space.

Usually I do not do this sort of post. I know legally I am considered a “publisher” and I’ve tried to put down in this post what I have discovered in my research this weekend, which has been a help to me.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Linkage Fees and Affordable Housing

I was talking to a resident who knows a whole lot more about affordable housing than I do (basically I know zip.)

What I was told is although the Community Preservation Act (CPA) money will go far for open space and historic preservation, affordable housing is very, very expensive.

Housing needs to be bought, and is incredibly expensive, then most probably it needs to be rehabbed, more expense, and then I gather a long term maintenance program needs to be set up. All of this, I would imagine would require a great deal of red tape and an amazing amount of time and energy.

The term “linkage fees” came up.

Now I’ve never heard of linkage fees before, but looking it up very quickly on the Web I got this information:

A linkage fee “requires developers to pay into a housing trust fund. The rationale for linkage is that developers should pay for the impact their projects have on the community.” (Boston Globe, September 9, 2002)

“Boston’s linkage program requires that developers pay an exaction to construct affordable housing.” (Boston Redevelopment Authority)

If the City of Newburyport ever decided to set up linkage fees for affordable housing, which I gather from the little research I’ve done, it would be extremely complicated and it would require an intact and skilled Planning Office. (And we know at the moment that our Planning Office under Mayor John Moak is in complete disarray.)

So why bother with affordable housing? If Newburyport had an appropriate number of affordable housing units (as far as I’m concerned, the more the merrier), Newburyport would not be under the shadow of 40B housing projects like the one Mayor John Moak has resurrected on the Woodman property on Low Street.

40B housing has a huge impact on the historic character, charm and beauty of Newburyport, MA and also, at least in the case of the Woodman property, adversely affects the environment (see previous posts.)

And it would also make Newburyport more economically diverse, a concept I happen to like. It would obviously give people who do not make unbelievable amounts of money or who were lucky enough to buy property before housing prices went through the roof, to have a chance to live in our seaport city, which I happen to think is a good thing.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport

Newburyport, Land Bank, Housing Bank

In a previous post concerning Nantucket and Steven Karp the “editor’s note” was that I did not know what a “Land Bank” was.

Well, Grant Sanders, the host of www.yakon.com, a website which many consider to be the place to find out what is really going on around Nantucket, sent me this information which I think is pretty interesting:

“The Nantucket Island’s Land Bank, the first org of its kind in the country, is a commission which collects a 2% fee from all real estate purchases here and uses those funds to buy, preserve and maintain open space. Currently just under 50% of the island is preserved as open space (by as many as seven or eight separate conservation organizations). Hopefully by the end of this year, that number will jump to 52% with the purchase of a conservation easement on a 270-acre parcel here known as the Linda Loring property.

Nantucket and the Vineyard are also starting a housing bank which would take 1% from the sale of a new home here. The money (around 9 million annually) will go to fund affordable housing initiatives.

You can read about the Land Bank at www.nantucketlandbank.org.”

You know what I really like? I really like the idea of a “housing bank” which would take 1% from the sale of any new construction by a developer and put it towards affordable housing. That works for me.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport