This is what I wonder. What happens now when a developer wants to start a project in a neighborhood? The infill project at 325 High Street, proposed by Jim Mellett of Marlin Properties, for example. If neighbors are unhappy with a proposed project, whom do they go to?
Before, the people of Newburyport, Massachusetts could turn to the Planning Director, Nick Cracknell. He would give them the information they needed, and help them negotiate with the developer for one of those great “Cracknell win-win” situations.
Now developers, architects and lawyers might not have like this process (I’m sure some did,) but it really, really helped the people whose lives were effected.
My own opinion is that the Newburyport Planning Board at the moment is very trustworthy. But it is my understanding that the Planning Board and the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) relied on Nick Cracknell to help them with the myriad of projects that came before the city. I don’t know if these boards, and they are volunteer boards, simply have the time and sometimes the expertise to help everyone that needs helping.
Personally I think that as citizens we’ve been spoiled. It seems to me that before Nick Cracknell arrived as Planning Director, when a project came before these boards, if the neighbors complained, the project didn’t happen and if there were no complaints the project was a go. (This may be simplistic, but it seems as if that was the case.)
In our project, in our neighborhood (see previous post,) in a “pre-Cracknell era” the project as it was originally proposed never would have happened, because the neighborhood was unanimous in feeling that we just didn’t like it. But we had Mr. Cracknell to give us information and act as a go-between between the neighbors and the developer.
What probably would have happened in a “pre-Cracknell era” is that as neighbors we would have killed the project. And then the developer would have come back with something else, which he could have worked within the zoning codes. But the project would have been much less appropriate and much, much worse (many examples of that in Newburyport, Massachusetts.)
So who is here to help your average citizen figure out what to do and help them negotiate with developers when they arrive in their back yard, so to speak?
Everyone tells me that Julie LaBlanche, in the Planning Office is great. I’ve only met her once. I’ve never worked with her on a project. But when people ask me whom to turn to (the alleged in-fill project at 30 Marlborough Street for example) I always suggest that they call Julie (The Planning Office phone number is 978-465-4400.)
But people really feel at a loss. And if anyone has any ideas, please let us all know. I for one don’t want to go back to the “pre-Cracknell” way of doing things. As a citizen I’ve learned too much. I know now that it is possible to help your average resident get a “win-win” situation when a developer shows up in their neighborhood.
Mary Eaton, Newburyport
(Editor’s note: Spelling correction, it’s Julie LaBranche, not Julie LaBlanche who is the City Planner in the Newburyport Planning Office.)