Newburyport, Protecting Our Historic Assets

It warmed the cockles of my little heart to read Stephen Tait’s most excellent article in the Newburyport Daily News, February 26, 2007 on protecting Newburyport’s historic assets. (The article can be read in its entirety [with permission] on the website of Save Our Town.)

To quote from the Newburyport Daily News article, February 26, 2007:

“Newburyport is one of the most historical- and architectural-rich areas in the country,” said Linda Smiley, chairwoman of the Historical Commission. “To fail to recognize that value by not protecting it is not very prudent. It is really what makes us. It drives our economy….”

“It is really a discussion about how to protect the city’s historic assets, which really provides the city with its economic backbone,” she (Smiley) said…”

“Given the historical significance of Newburyport, which is regarded as one of the top places in the country for historical homes, especially Federalist style, it comes as a surprise to some that there are no safeguards already in place, Smiley said…”

“Nancy Colbert, the city’s planning director and expert in historical preservation, said such districts are used to protect the assets of cities such as Newburyport.

“Local historic districts are one of the strongest tools available to a municipality in regard to protection,” she said….”

“Colbert said there have been other attempts to create a district, but they were opposed by those who do not want such regulations on their homes. She said this time around will be an opportunity to educate people on the benefits, adding that it will be essential to make the district appropriate and user-friendly…”

“Doug Locy, chairman of the Planning Board, did say the commission would not likely be for extensive rules…”

“Smiley, Colbert and Locy said a recent emergence of grass-roots groups in the city that are calling for more historic protections and the historic district forming for Fruit Street helped spawn momentum for the larger, citywide project…” (Newburyport Daily News, February 26, 2007, by Steven Tait)

I’m loving this. I can’t tell you how much I’m loving this.

The proposal, starting off very slowly with a “study group,” has been sent “to committee.” At this point I do not know how the Newburyport City Council would respond long-term, but, for goodness sakes, what an opportunity.

And to read that a discussion about protecting our historic assets taking place on the Newburyport City Council floor, well, that just makes me smile from ear to ear.

That the Newburyport Historic Commission, Newburyport’s Planning Director and the chair of the Newburyport Planning Board all would like “user-friendly” protection. Very smart. Very smart indeed.

May the Newburyport City Council take advantage of this opportunity and engage in protecting our historic assets, the base of our economic vitality, ensuring a vibrant economic future, to leave as a legacy for Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Influence of Infill

I was invited to a very nice gathering at the Newburyport Preservation Trust for its members and friends. The Newburyport Preservation Trust– a fledgling non-profit organization, with gobs of potential, with at last I knew, 120 members and growing.

My, a lot of new faces. And Historic Preservation can be so boring.

So why, I asked myself, this sudden interest and enthusiasm. Multi-determined, I’m sure.

A lot of “wakeup calls” from “infill” in literally backyards. There’s nothing like an objectionable project next door to make one suddenly become mucho interested in “zoning,” which is usually a major snooze factor.

Or to have an “infill” project next door, maybe not literally next door, but in one’s town, next door, a la the proposed Wheelwright property development. That seems to have gotten people very interested in what they might do to “save our town.”

And, much to my delight, the mayor of Newburyport, MA was not only invited, but showed up to this gathering of people interested in preserving our historic assets, the basis of our economic success now, and our economic strength in the future.

Good for Mayor John Moak. I really and truly was really pleased (all silliness on my part aside).

There were a number of Newburyport City Councilors there as well.

And the meet and greet turned out to be a tonic for civic burn-out, as well as just being plain old downright fun.

So good for the Newburyport Preservation Trust. Keep up the good work. And may the Newburyport Preservation Trust fulfill the potential that so many of us think that it could have.

Mary Eaton

(Editor’s note: The Newburyport Preservation Trust was formed in 2005 as a non-profit organization. It’s mission is to inform, educate and advocate for the enhancement and preservation of Newburyport’s unique historic character and architectural legacy.)

Publishing, Weather, Comics and Newburyport News

This is what I’ve come to ask myself as I reflect on my momentary euphoria at putting links to horoscopes, the weather, comics etc on the Home Page of the Newburyport Blog:

Have I gone over to the “dark side,” the commercial side, by blatantly linking to CNN and the Weather Channel instead of my fellow struggling bloggers and even my own local media?

Or is this a case of “blogger savvy?” Aspiring to lure local readers to bigger things, in hopes that they might notice the encroaching elements and issues that (in my mind at least) plague their own home town? (Or have I just lost it?)

I’m not a black and white thinker. Multi-determined, probably.

I myself find that I now linger over my own blog, checking the weather, then my horoscope and finally finding out what Doonesbury could possibly be up to. I find that I actually forgo checking out the 20 something “stud-muffins,” that may be “very easy on the eyes” at the Personals.

Yes, a quick check at Sports. A wander over to the National News. (It’s fun.) And then I crawl back to the warmth of my own sometimes myopic blogging of my own small New England burg.

I think to myself, why not? Newspapers have a broad swatch of whatever and then lure readers to dangle over, while checking out TV Listings and the Comics. Why not moi?

Why not do it backwards? Have a small blog-about, about whatever and then lure readers with the possibilities of “stud-muffins” at the Personals and “laughter” at Comics and “euphoria and agony” at Sports.

In fact, I wonder why I had never thought of this sooner. Why not blend hot-stuff major mindsets and things with small city, local blogging?

One of my frustrations is that so many people in Newburyport, MA find out about “important stuff,” let’s say like the proposed development at the Wheelwright property, a year after the whole thing has gotten well under way.

I checked, the first blog entry on the SOS on the Wheelwright Property was way back in January 2006. The second major blog entry no less.

Where have these people been? Some of them have been reading the New York Times and the New Yorker for goodness sakes. All good stuff, but nothing in there about the encroaching dilemmas of Newburyport, MA. How will they know? Or at least how will they know a little sooner or the vague possibility of a whole lot sooner?

Or worse yet, they haven’t been reading much of anything, if anything at all.

So my little theory and experiment. A brief glance might inform about some of Newburyport’s concerns, whatever. And then, yippee, fun and serious stuff can be linked to, and hence, it might be worth a visit to the Newburyport Blog.

So I will be interested to see how the “Newburyport Blog goes national” thing goes. And at the very least, I’ll be entertaining myself, “dark side” or no. (Plus, the frogs love it. And, yes, this is the deciding of all important, possible deciding factors; factual, fun stuff for frogs.)

Mary Eaton

The Newburyport Blog: Weather, Horoscope, Sports, Personals

The Newburyport Blog gets national (sort of).

This Newburyport Blog gets national (sort of) thing, came by quite by accident (really).

I was think, gee, it would be nice to have the “weather” on the Home Page of the Newburyport Blog, but I couldn’t get the little weather button to work, so all I had was a link to Newburyport’s local weather on the side of the Home Page of the Newburyport Blog. Looked kind of lonely.

So what to put there to make “weather” look not so lonely? TV Listings, that might be fun. Let’s do that. Cool.

Still looking kind of lonely though. Horoscopes. Ooooh, Horoscopes. Love that one. So I look around the World Wide Web and came up with a “Horoscope” that was not too short and not too long and sounded sort of like my day. I went with that one.

Now I was really getting into it. What next? Comics. So I looked around the World Wide Web again, and came up with what I thought was a pretty good comic site, that includes Doonsebury. And you can go back and read all the Doonsebury strips you missed. How fun is that.

By this time, I’m really smiling. What are we missing now? Sports. I look around the Internet at sports stuff. All that I’m seeing is missing one very important ingredient: The Red Soxs. So I look at the two most likely links and come up with the best website. Maybe they’re not your favorite writers, but hey it’s not bad. This way when you check in with the Newburyport Blog, you can find out what’s going on with the Red Soxs and spring training. How cool is that.

I figured if people wanted to feel “tony” they might want to check the National News. And again it came down to reputation and a good website.

What would be really fun? The Personals. It’s a slow day a work and you want to pretend that you are 20 again, and can go check out the 20 something “stud muffins.” I’m loving this.

Oh, oh, oh… and then I found the coolest Crossword Puzzle. You can check “Regular Skill Level” and it will help you solve the darn thing. I just love the World Wide Web.

So come visit The Newburyport Blog and after you’ve read whatever quip I may have written, stay a while with me. Check out the weather; read your horoscope; find out what Doonesbury is up to today (can’t wait to see what they do with the Sunday Comics on the World Wide Web); follow the beloved Red Sox’s spring training, or whatever; glance at the National News; check out the “stud-muffins” in the Personals; and if things are really, really slow, work on that crossword puzzle and then have them solve it for you in a twinkle, and you will feel, oh, so smart. I did.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, MA, Capital Improvement Plan Needed

A while back I was on one of the mayor’s “transition teams.” It was quite a while back, and I really couldn’t figure out why in the world they wanted me on there. (I later concluded it was to “shut me up,” which worked for a while, but I gotta say, not forever.)

I don’t know how or if I ever did help the transition team (the group of people put together to give the new mayor information on the state of the city so he or she can make a smoother “transition” into the Office of Mayor of Newburyport, MA), but I learned a whole lot about the city of Newburyport, MA. And some of it was pretty discouraging.

I remember sitting around the table and listening to the different reports that were being summarized for the incoming mayor and my jaw was dropping. Financially, (and this was a while back when, mind you) it seemed as if the City of Newburyport, MA was in really, really bad shape in almost every department.

And yes, one of the things that came up way back then was that the Fire Department of Newburyport, MA desperately, desperately needed new fire trucks. And also, it didn’t appear that there was any capital improvement plan in place for the City of Newburyport, MA.

So I guess I wasn’t really surprised to read in the Newburyport Daily News, February 20, 2007 that low and behold, the Newburyport Fire Department trucks from 1968 and 1979 (I mean we’re talking ancient here) had finally given up the ghost.

It sounded to me that the Newburyport Fire Department trucks had given up the ghost way back whenever, when I was sitting around the table listening to the “transition team.”

And that the two newest Newburyport Fire Departments trucks were made in 1993. That’s not exactly young, brand spanking, sparkling new.

Well, Yikes.

I was very glad to read in that article in the Newburyport Daily News that Mayor John Moak has been working on a capital improvement plan for the City of Newburyport, MA, “work that includes funding repairs to schools, fixing sidewalk problems and buying a new firetruck.”

And I am sure that Mayor John Moak got the same bad news that I had heard so many moons ago, but even worse, since those Newburyport Fire Department trucks, and everything else, were/are that many more years older.

And this is one of the many, many reasons that I would never want to be mayor of Newburyport, MA. And think that being on the Newburyport City Council is not exactly a picnic either.

Mary Eaton

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, Landscapes and Open Space, Historic Assets

Ok, what’s the point of having the Newburyport Blog if I can’t “hype” what I do every now and then. Seems like it should be one of the “perks” of blogging the Newburyport Blog along with “frogs” (Are the frogs a “perk?” I’m not sure if I would exactly describe the frogs as a “perk.” Maybe something else.)

Anyway, when I’m not blogging, I’m painting. And the Newburyport Blog has actually influenced what I paint. I’ve been blogging so much about Open Space in Newburyport, MA, that I’ve actually started to go back and do paintings (or I guess technically they could be called “landscapes”) of the “Open Space” in Newburyport that I love so much.

One of the things that I couldn’t believe when I first “discovered” Newburyport, MA and moved here in 1981 was the combination of pasture or untouched farm land and a gorgeous historic small historic seaport city, right on the mouth of the Merrimac River and the Atlantic Ocean.

And I’ve always loved driving up Route 95 and seeing that expanse of Open Space and then driving down historic High Street.

And I’ve always loved going down Scotland Road and seeing all that beautiful pasture.

As I’ve blogged the Newburyport Blog, low these almost 14 months, I’ve learned more than I ever imagined how hard all kinds of people are fighting to preserve that wonderful balance between Open Space and our architectural historic assets. And it has been so engrained in my own “hard drive” that I did a painting of that area along Scotland Road that the City of Newburyport has been fighting so hard for to preserve as Open Space.

I’m very grateful to all those folks who fight so hard to preserve our historic assets, whether they are historic open space or historic architectural resources.

“The Pasture”
Oil on Paper, 5.5″ x 22″
2007 © Mary Baker (that’s my painting name)

More of the “Open Space” landscapes can be found at Mary Baker Art.

Thank you for indulging me in my “hype” and my “perk.”

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Historic Assets, Newburyport City Hall

Something delightful to blog about. The Preservation Awards given out by the Newburyport Historical Commission on February 8, 2007.

Newburyport City Hall
Photograph courtesy of Mary Baker Eaton

The first Preservation Award was given to Newburyport City Hall for “Restoration and repair of building exterior, including replacement of historic brownstone and wooden architectural elements.”

A plaque was awarded with many names including Mayor John Moak, the Newburyport City Council, former Mayor Mary Anne Clancy and our State Representatives, Steven Baddour and Michael Costello.

Here is the text from the Newburyport Historical Commission, Linda Smiley, Commission Chair.

“We are especially pleased to present this restoration award to the City of Newburyport for an outstanding job on the exterior of our historic City Hall. The restoration and repair of historic brownstone and wooden architectural elements is outstanding. I’d like to point out that a blend of historically authentic as well as modern materials were used. Lime mortar to match the original was used on the brickwork. Our compliments to the craftsmen(masons) who completed this work as well as the architects, designers, conservators and planners. It was clearly a team effort and the results are wonderful. We now have a City Hall that we can all be proud of and for that we thank the City. We would especially like to thank Geordie Vining for his excellent work as project manager. Geordie held the restoration team together and made it happen despite the thousands of minor and major obstacles that presented themselves. Geordie has our highest respect and should be applauded for the fine job he did.”

Newburyport City Hall– A preservation success story.

City Hall, Newburyport, MA; from a c. 1910 postcard
Image is in the public domain

Mary Eaton

The Newburyport Blog

When I first started this blog back in January 1, 2006, I figured I would only be blogging about politics in Newburyport, MA so I would call it “The Newburyport Political Blog.” And I also thought it would be pretty presumptuous to call it just “The Newburyport Blog.” Who knew, there might be lots of other Newburyport blogs.

But today, February 19, 2007 I decided to change the name from the “Newburyport Political Blog” to “The Newburyport Blog” because the blog has grown into something that I never imagined it growing into. I never imagined that it could possibly have the readership and the following it does have. And I never imagined that it would ever cover the wider range of topics that it now covers.

And as I walk the streets of Newburyport, MA (which is one of the things that I love to do) people always stop me and say, “hey, you’re the one who writes the Newburyport blog, right?” So, I figured maybe it was time to finally change the name to “The Newburyport Blog,” the name that I would have really liked to have called it in the very beginning.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, MA, New England Development

From reading the Newburyport Daily News last week it sounded like a nifty New England Development, Karpian “love-fest.” Chuck Lagasse, Ann Lagasse, George Hilton, the mayor. It sounded like everybody’s just “yummy.” Everyone frolicking around except for the one person Newburyport, MA would very much like to see up close and personal, Mr. Stephen Karp.

I got to say that since Stephen Karp has never made a public appearance in Newburyport, MA (Newburyport Daily News, February 16, 2007), that no matter what Mr. Karp might say at this point, it is my opinion that the populace of Newburyport, MA might be skeptical, to say the least. (Is this an vast understatement? Yes.)

I do not believe that the issue is, that the residents of Newburyport, MA might lack “patience” in regards to a huge waterfront development by Mr. Karp, that could or could not radically and permanently damage Newburyport, MA. I think that the issue is a matter of trust, or to clarify, unearned trust by Mr. Stephen Karp himself.

After the series of articles in the Newburyport Daily News, I wanted to call up our mayor or Mr. Hilton (who just sold his Marina to Mr. Karp for lots and lots of money) and say, “is this really a love-fest??”

I’ve been told many times that I should call people like our mayor and George Hilton for comments. But I gotta tell you, I would feel a little silly (not in the good sense “silly,” but in the silly sense “silly”) calling up and saying, “hi, this is Mary Baker Eaton from the Newburyport Political Blog, would you be willing to make a comment? Is this really a love-fest or what?”

However, having made the acquaintance of both Sarah White (Newburyport Preservation Trust) and Allyson Lawless (Buy Local), I did get in touch with both of these young ladies who were quoted in the Newburyport Daily News article, February 16, 2007, and asked, “is this really a love-fest or what? Is everybody as “yummy” as everyone sounds?”

And to give both young ladies mucho credit, neither one of them thought I was totally “whacked.” (They both like frogs. ) (And hey, I am getting the “you are totally whacked” thing because of the frogs, and maybe other stuff as well, I don’t know.)

And in the article in the Newburyport Daily News, February 16, 2007, it was pointed out by Ms Lawless that all we have to go on is what Mr. Karp has done for his other projects and developments. And yes, both young ladies are “concerned,” not “hysterical,” not “fearful” but “concerned.”

And whether or not what New England Development does is “tasteful” or not, did not appear to be the issue. Whether or not what New England Development does or does not do is “appropriate” or “inappropriate” for our New England seacoast city, is very much the issue indeed.

Mary Eaton

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, Valentines Day and Wild Weather

What a day, Wednesday, February 14, 2007 in Newburyport, MA, good grief.

Oy Vey… Do I like the snow and wind and rain and sleet? No.

Do I like some snow? Yes. Did I like this particular storm. No.

And on Valentines Day with George and Georgiana no less.

George Cushing, of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog and his new frog “heart-throb,” Georgiana Tadpole on their FIRST Valentines Day together with a blizzard outside no less.

George Cushing and Georgiana Tadpole
on their very FIRST Valentines Day

And here is a picture of the two “love frogs.” The heart is a visual clue that they are being romantic, just incase it isn’t all that obvious.

Such excitement around the Newburyport Political Blog, except there just happened to be a blizzard outside.

Would I take George and Georgiana to whatever romantic frog place they had in mind on their special day?

No. Are you kidding. You’re frogs and there’s a blizzard outside for crying out loud.

Do I consider myself an ogre of an editor and a lousy friend, no less, because I won’t drive you where??

No. Are you kidding. You’re frogs and there’s a blizzard outside for goodness sakes.

And then, I made the mistake of suggesting that they might help out a little, instead of being so “demanding.”

What a mistake that was. First of all, frogs hopping around outside in a blizzard with spoons as shovels, complaining, and then getting freezing right away. Plus they’re not doing anything, because what can you do with a spoon in a blizzard? Right? Not a good idea on my part. Not a good idea at all, let me tell you.

And then trying to warm them up. I thought frogs were supposed to adapt to this sort of thing? But no, whine, whine, whine. (Frog whining is quite an experience. Picture really high pitched whining.)

What a nightmare, G & G’s first Valentines Day. I doubt it will ever be forgotten. And, I got to admit, even I was feeling a little sorry for them. Oh, well. Eventually, they hopped off to froggy hormonal wonder-land wherever.

Who knew that having a frog as a political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog was ever going to be this kind of froggy learning curve? Not moi, I can tell you. Not moi.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, We are so Sorry

One of our own has experienced a terrible, terrible loss.

Ulrika Gerth’s ( the editor of the Newburyport Current) father-in-law died last night, February 14, 2007 in Maryland, in a car accident and Ulrika’s mother-in-law is in a comma.

Our hearts go out both to Ulrika and her husband Ralph Gerth.

I talked to Marlene Switzer, the Editor and Chief of the Newburyport Current, and a good friend of Ulrika’s to ask what we as a community could do for someone who has given us so much.

Marlene suggested at the moment that we send cards to:

Ulrika and Ralph Gerth
c/o Switzer
38 Charles Street
Newburyport, MA 01950

To let Ulrika and Ralph know how much the community cares and that they are not alone. Marlene will make sure that they get all the cards.

If there is anything further that we can do for Ulrika and Ralph, Marlene Switzer will let us all know.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, City Manager

I cannot tell you how much I long for a city manager form of government. And the fact that two gentleman from the opposite sides of the Newburyport aisle, so to speak, agree that it is a good idea to have a dialogue about this possibility warms my little heart (and so close to Valentines Day too).

I cannot get behind the idea that we need someone who is “one of us,” that only one of the “Newburyport family” could be trusted to do this huge, civic, administrative job. That an “outsider” could not be trusted .

Newburyport, MA is a multi-million municipal operation. Multi-million operations are run by trained professionals who know what they are doing. And the more I blog about Newburyport, MA, the more I understand how unbelievably complicated running this place can be. Good grief.

And do I really think all the trained CEO’s who have the talent and expertise to run Newburyport, MA, who live in this community would consider leaving their jobs and take on the responsibility, much less the yummy politics of this place? I think that the answer to that question is a big fat “no.”

And it is my opinion that Mr., Mrs. or Ms regular Newburyport human being do not have the training for this kind of overwhelming administrative, daunting, complicated conundrum.

However, there are actually people who train for this nightmare of a job description and actually want to do it. They are city managers, town managers and they get paid the right kind of money that it takes to look at the kind of tangled mess we weave (or for that matter the mess that any municipality weaves).

And we would get to fire this human being if he or she or it isn’t doing the administrative job we think he, she or it should be doing.

In theory this is supposed to make our ship sail a little smoother. Well, hopefully a whole lot smoother.

Being mayor of Newburyport, MA used to be an “honor.” These days it’s a nightmare triathlon. For a whole variety of reasons (which would be a whole other post, or a whole series of posts, if not a PhD thesis) the days of being the mayor being an “honor” are long gone in the dark ages of Newburyport, MA.

So I am very glad that Newburyport City Councilor James Shanley and Newburyport City Councilor Erford Fowler have come forth and together proposed taking a good hard look at what having a city manager form of government might entail.

Do I think the residents of Newburyport, MA are going to have an open mind in general about this one? No, I do not. However, I do believe the discussion is a vital one to have. And if we start having the discussion now in the year 2007, maybe in 2 centuries or so, we might actually do something concrete about it.

Mary Eaton
Newburyport, MA

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, Development, Newbury, Route 1

This is a slightly less hysterical post of the “MAYDAY” post that was in my blogging head yesterday.

It is in response to the article on the front page of the Newburyport Daily News, February 9, 2007 with the headline “Historic proposal presented.” (Possibly somewhat of an ambiguous headline.)

Facts mentioned in the article that made my blood pressure go up.

* 72 acres of land just south of the railroad station in Newbury for major development.

* 90,000 square-feet of retail space and 248 homes.

* “The 220 rental apartments would be clustered in 24 buildings, the 28 townhouse condiminiums in four other structures.”

* Beacon Community Development.

* 35,000 square-foot grocery store.

* “…rival, if not eclipse, the “Waterside West” development that Newburyport city officials envision developer Stephen Karp could propose on the city’s downtown waterfront.”

* “The project would be about two miles from downtown Newburyport.”

* “The retail part of the development would be about two-thirds the size of Port Plaza, on Storey Avenue.”

* “…it was likely that one or possibly two traffic signals would be needed, at Route 1 and the new main street and a few hundred feet farther south at the Route 1-HanoverStreet-Middle Road junction.”

* “Beacon would be working with Newburyport to provide water and sewer service to the village.”

* “The goal is that this would be fiscally neutral for the town… ”

This is was what the article did not say.

The “development” will be on about 20 (I think) acres of land. Still a heck of a lot of land.

This is “technically” part of the Little River Transit Village. “Technically.” In reading the stuff on the Little River Transit Village, it doesn’t sound like the “development” is in the spirit of that planning document. (This is where I need a major education from the readers of the Newburyport Political Blog. I will admit to being on a huge learning curve when it comes to the Little River Transit Village stuff.)

This is not “new” or out of the blue, but has been in the works for at least a year. (Boy, have I ever been under a rock. I’ll have to turn my eyes towards the Newbury part of the papers from here on in.)

And on the Town of Newbury website, yes indeed, this area is slated for development. Who knew? Not moi, I can tell you.

I have tons of questions about this project. But Wow. Good grief. Yikes! Excuse me? And come again?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, The Waterfront

Is anyone who has been following the riveting Central Waterfront ongoing saga now surprised that Mayor John Moak did not reappoint Janet Marcus, the current chair of the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority?

Well, I gotta tell you, I’m not.

No big surprise here. Mayor John Moak has been upfront and center about his wish to have LOTS of parking on Newburyport’s Central Waterfront, and there was some disagreement on this one on Ms Marcus’s part. (Is this an understatement? Yes.)

And should Patricia Dorfman, the former Executive Director of the Customs House Maritime Museum as an appointee be a huge surprise? I don’t think so.

Ms Dorfman has stated her understanding for parking in regards to the Customs House Maritime Museum, and perhaps Mr. Moak is hoping for a receptive ear.

My experience is that Ms Dorfman is a very bright young lady. And it is also my experience with very bright young ladies is that they are not always as predictable as one might expect. Don’t put any money down on this one yet, folks. I’m not.

And my experience is that Ms Dorfman is very personable and easy to get along with. This seems to be a prerequisite when it comes to Moakian appointments. Is this a terrible, terrible character flaw? In my book there are a whole lot worse, let me tell you.

Ok, so let’s say that this the worse case scenario happens. All Mayor Moak’s appointments turn out to share and vote for his very focused goal of having LOTS of parking on the Central Waterfront and NOT paying any attention to the people’s wishes in 2 surveys of having half park and half parking.

What Mayor John Moak does not appear to grasp yet, is if the “all-parking” thing actually got voted on, it would be litigated in the courts for years.

Legally the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will not allow it. And forget about the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, war chests in Newburyport, MA are most probably already being stocked for this very possible conclusion.

My money is on Ms Dorfman being fair and balanced. But whether she would be fair and balanced or not, one thing seems to be almost guaranteed, no matter what happens, the Central Waterfront Saga may “delight” and “entertain” us for years and possibly yet many more duplicate decades to come. This is only the 85th act of goodness knows how many acts of the Central Waterfront performance to follow.

And yet one more thing. I hear “newbies” (good grief, I a “newbie never a native” who has been here for “only” 26 years, am now calling 5-10 year transplants “newbies”) speculating on all kinds of things that might be possible on the Central Waterfront property.

To these “5-10” year “newbies,” whatever you have thought of, has not only been thought of before, but has been vigorously fought over before. But, hey, if everyone wants to fight about those things all over again, go right ahead. Just “enhances” the Central Waterfront drama that much more.

Who’s to say there should be any time limit on this saga. A half a century, a full century, maybe even 2 full centuries. Why not go for the Guinness Book of Records for the longest and “most delightful” civic brawl?

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Education

Our schools. The financial state of our schools. How utterly depressing.

I hope Superintendent Kevin Lyons sticks around, doesn’t get so discouraged about the bleak financial picture that he moves on. Never met the guy, but not to repeat myself, but to repeat myself, he sounds awesome.

To have the school financial picture be so bleak that we will have to let teacher’s go, possibly lose the accreditation for our High School and have class sizes go up. Yikes.

No extra money from the state, rising costs and no extra mula in the city’s coffers. Yikes.

Look folks, when it gets this bleak, I’m all for an override. Come on, we are not talking entitled Taj Mahal Elementary School Building plan here, we are talking losing basics, which hurts everyone’s financial bottom line.

People are not going to want to live in Newburyport, MA if our brand new spanking High School (which hasn’t been remotely paid for yet) loses its accreditation. Oh, good grief.

In 2 months we’ve gone from discussing a Taj Mahal approach to an Elementary School Building plan, to a very commonsense approach by Newburyport Superintendent Kevin Lyons to, at least what I thought was a “brilliant,” problem solving solution to the present overcrowding in the Newburyport Elementary School, to the present utter bleakness.

Oy vey…

This is one of the many, many reasons I would never want to be on the Newburyport School Committee or be the mayor of Newburyport, MA. Much easier to be a blogger.

I would lose an awful lot of sleep at night on this one.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, a Hotel, the Waterfront

Mayor John Moak would very much like Mr. Stephen Karp to build a hotel on Mr. Karp’s waterfront property.

The only thing that would appear more cursed than resolving the Central Waterfront parking conundrum, would be a hotel on Newburyport’s waterfront.

Hmm… let’s see, Roger Foster had an awful lot of problems with a proposed hotel on the waterfront way back when. Didn’t do much for his pocket book, as I recall, a lot of litigation.

And, hmm… let’s see, my recollection is that the Lagasses, who bought a lot of property from Mr. Foster, also proposed a hotel on the waterfront. And that was way back whenever. That proposal is still being litigated, yo these many, many years later. (Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007)

The Newburyport hotel waterfront curse. Be a real selling point for anyone wanting to leap in yet again. And from what I can make out from the article by Ulrika Gerth in the Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007, there is a little bit of hesitation. No one appears to be running gleefully towards the notion with wide and inviting open arms.

Judging from past contentious history, the notion of a hotel might be approached with caution. But no, Mayor John Moak apparently would like to dive into this one.

“Mayor John Moak said attracting a hotel is a prime focus of his administration… “I know this administration, me and the Planning Department, would be much more interested in trying to tweak things if it means more overnight accommodations,” he said. “We’re committed to that and we know we have to make some compromises to make it work.” ” (Newburyport Current, February 2, 2007)

What has people puzzled to downright alarmed is the reference in the above quote by Mayor John Moak to “tweaking things” and “making some compromises to make it work,” much less having a hotel be his “prime focus” (big news to a lot of folks). A hotel at all costs? Tweaking? Compromising? If history is any indication it is possible that not all of Newburyport’s populace would necessarily agree.

And maybe one of the most discouraging things in the article in the Newburyport Current is not about Mayor John Moak, who is desperately trying to find money somewhere to pay for all the civic things that Newburyport doesn’t have money for (like our schools among other things). But the fact that Stephen Karp, who controls Newburyport’s destiny, has only bothered to have one conversation with the gentleman in the corner office.

And I find this very dispiriting indeed.

Mary Eaton

Newburyport, Political Consultants, etc

First of all I apologized to George Cushing of Frog Pond at the Bartlet Mall, the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog, for my wanting to even think about having anything tasteless regarding him and Georgiana Tadpole on the Newburyport Political Blog.

George has accepted my apology.

George did think, however, that there are an awful lot of photographs of FROGS and not a one photograph of the editor of the Newburyport Political Blog.

I told him I didn’t like having my picture taken at all. That’s why there is no picture anywhere (except of that nice photograph taken by the Boston Globe on the “Press” page) on the World Wide Web of yours truly.

George, tenacious frog that he is, put his little webby foot down, and said, “Well tough, it’s about time.”

So here is a picture of the hard-working editor of the Newburyport Political Blog, namely moi, with George Cushing the political consultant to the Newburyport Political Blog.

The editor of the Newburyport Political Blog
with George Cushing, political consultant

Hey, what can I say, it’s February, it’s cold, and it wouldn’t matter what vast and important things could be happening in Newburyport, MA, even stuff about “flagpoles.” (See previous post.) Sometimes it’s just fun to be silly. Having a picture taken with a stuffed frog might be something one could get away with on a blog, but it would most probably be hopelessly vetoed in “mainstream” media outlets.

Oh, well.

Mary Eaton