Growth and Development in Newburyport, Massachusetts

On February 15th, Mr. Martino stated that he thinks the best strategy for Newburyport is to grow rapidly. I respectfully disagree. As Mr. Martino pointed out in a previous post, he has only lived here for 2 years, so he may not realize that in the last 10-12 years Newburyport has grown substantially, and development has been pushed to the max. Calling for rapid growth now doesn’t make sense to me because there is no room left to grow in the city. There is no more land like Cherry Hill or Turkey Hill to build more development on and the only other option is in-fill which the majority of Newburyporter’s do not support. It seems to me that the only people that support in-fill are the people that will profit from it.

What gets overlooked when talking about growth and development is the size of the city itself. We are a tiny city (I believe the smallest in the state, area-wise), and we have a limited amount of space. We are also a very old city, over 350 years old. To continue down a path of development is destructive to the reasons why we love this city. We love it for its beauty and character and we love it because it is unique. Every new development, be it new homes, condo’s, in-fill, or business, is a permanent change that can not be undone (at least not practically). This growth and development robs the city of what we have all come to love about it. It also adversely affects the rest of the citizens that already live here. We have been told constantly through the last decade or so, when development was rampant, was that it was going to benefit the city through creating a larger tax base, and thus we would have more money. Well, that hasn’t happened, and saying we need to do more of the same seems to me to be an empty promise.

There are other issues that arise from over developing such a small city, such as traffic and parking. As everyone that lives here knows, you may as well avoid driving to the down town area altogether on any given weekend from May to September. The traffic is often backed up from Market Square to the Gillis Bridge (right where the Waterfront West development is planned), as well as the lights on State St. During the rush hour on weekdays, Storey Ave. can be a nightmare. The lights on Rt. 1 off of Low St. are another problem area. Additional development will only add to the problem, not solve it. As for parking, well, that’s a different issue, but again it gets back to the character and charm of the city. Do we want an ugly parking garage (that won’t actually increase the number of parking spaces we have) that we as citizens have to pay to use, just so we can increase the development of a town that is too small to support it? I don’t, and I don’t think most Newburyporter’s do.

I think, and I don’t mean to speak for everyone, but my sense is, Newburyporter’s have had enough development, the city is can’t handle it and neither can it’s citizens. The only people who really support development are those that are going to profit from it, and we as a city are running out of time and space, if we don’t take a stand, we won’t have the beautiful city we enjoy now. We don’t want more promises of lower taxes due to a larger tax base because it will never happen. Does anyone think the city will lower the fees they recently increased in the past year or so because we have more people to handle the tax burden? Absolutely not, if anything an increase in people will mean an increase in fees. We don’t want houses that are too big to be crammed into a lot that is too small to support more than one house. We don’t want more traffic and less parking. We don’t want fewer services and larger expenses. We do want to preserve what we have left, what hasn’t been developed yet and what everyone loves about the city, and that simply won’t happen with continued development.

Ben Laing, Newburyport