Meetings on What Will Happen to The Brown School

The Brown School
The Brown School

The City is now actively concentrating on what to do with the Brown School. Although the template for what to do with the Brown School has been the 2014 Brown School Feasibility Study, the City of Newburyport is now taking a different approach. The school is in terrible shape, and would cost around $14 million to rehab/fix/develop it. The school and the land itself has been appraised at $5.5 million. Understandably the City would like a developer to develop that property.

I was very upset at the last Brown School meeting that affordable housing advocates from all over the city were “rounded up” on Facebook and by word of mouth. The push was for all affordable housing. The neighbors felt intimidated about speaking up about their concerns about parking, traffic and density, worried that they would be labeled as being discriminating against poor people and the elderly, and the fact that this was a completely different direction than the one they had been lead to believe that the City was going in for the last 3-4 years, i.e. The Brown School Feasibility Study.

City Councilor Jared Eigerman  introduced an Ordinance for Monday’s City Council Meeting. I am very grateful to Councilor Eigerman that he has done this. I hope that it is the beginning of a thoughtful dialogue on the new directions that the city is taking for this project.

“This is my (Councilor Eigerman’s) attempt to reconcile all of the interest that I’ve heard over the past five years and balance it out,” Eigerman said, noting that the ordinance will likely be sent to one of the City Council’s committees and ultimately require a positive vote from eight of the 11 councilors.

“Now, with my colleagues, we’re going to hammer it out,” From the Daily News, February 9, 2018.

The Ordinance proposes 40%-60% affordable housing, which I think is a good mix.

The Ordinance proposes 1-1.5 cars per unit. I think that is really unrealistic parking for the neighborhood. I think at least 2 cars per unit is realistic.

The Ordinance calls for 24 units, which I think is way too many units for this property. (Councilor Eigerman has assured me that all of this in his mind would be open for discussion. I trust him a lot.)

The Ordinance would enable the Newburyport Youth Services (NYS) department to serve City residents, “consistent with its mission,” and to Identify public monies for the “NYS to continue to serve Newburyport residents after it relocates from the Brown School Site.”

The Ordinance would protect the 2013 Brown School Park, roughly 11,000 square feet.

The Ordinance calls for, “Mitigating negative impacts upon the neighborhood from changes in use of the Brown School Site, with particular concern for quality of design, traffic, and parking.”

The Ordinance calls for, “Providing for a diverse, balanced, and inclusive community, with housing for people of all income levels as a matter of basic fairness and social responsibility, and to promote economic stability within the community.”

The Ordinance calls for “Protecting the historic exterior features of the schoolhouse building.”

The Ordinance can be found here in the City Council packet https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/sites/newburyportma/files/agendas/city_council_packet_02_12_18_reduced.pdf

I think that it is really important for people to contact all 11 of our Newburyport City Councilors, not just Councilor Eigerman (Ward 2) and Councilor Sharif Zeid (Ward 1). The City Councilor’s contact information can be found here: https://www.cityofnewburyport.com/city-council .  I would also Cc Mayor Holaday and our City Planner Andy Port.

The Ordinance was sent to the City Council Planning and Development Committee at Monday night’s City Council meeting. I was very relieved by this. They will be holding sub-committee meeting on the Brown School. If you care about this project please attend those meetings, this is where a discussion of the fate of the Brown School will take place. The first meeting will be scheduled the week of February 26th.

The Brown School
The Brown School