Newburyport, Design Review

I’m obsessing here. I’m obsessing about Mayor John Moak’s remark in the Newburyport Daily News, April 11, 2006, about Newburyport’s planning process, “Things need to move along faster and not get bogged down in design.”

Well this remark addresses is one of my concerns about this administration. Nick Cracknell, as Newburyport’s Planning Director would review projects that came before the Planning Board to make sure that they adhered to the Newburyport Master Plan. In my mind, this was a great thing. Better to err on the side super safe than have a laissez faire approach to what happens building wise in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

Now there has been some talk in the wind that Mayor Moak would like a design review board made up of just architects and landscape architects. The in the wind part is that there would be a group, and out of the group the mayor would choose which ones would review which project and then the person who has the project reviewed would pay the reviewers. Now this is in the wind, but it’s in the wind, floating around enough to have some credence.

If there is any truth to any of this, let’s just say, I’m worried.

Because this would give architects and developers a green light and no check and balances, and there would be absolutely no advocacy for “smart growth.”

And this approach would be completely at odds with the Planning Board’s approach of having a balanced Design Review Board, one that includes a member of the Planning Board or Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), a member of the Historical Commission and including the Planning Director would also work for me. This version of the Design Review Board would have the Newburyport Master Plan as its guide. This is a good thing. Not only is this a good thing, this is a very, very good thing.

Yes, this approach might “bog” down the design process, but it would also help insure the integrity of Newburyport, Massachusetts, something I believe its citizens want in a major way.

The Design Review Board will come up for a public hearing in front of the Planning Board and I believe it will also have to be voted on by the Newburyport City Council.

I’m hoping that the whole issue of design review will be addressed in the Newburyport Current or discussed in the interview that Mr. Ryan had with Newburyport’s departing Planning Director Nick Cracknell. And I’ll have some more facts. That way either I can relax and breath a sigh of relief or obsess some more.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport