COW's Official Statement to the Newburyport City Council
Presented by Elizabeth Heath, COW President
Public Forum on the Central Waterfront, January 28, 2014
My thanks to Councilor Cameron and the City Council for listening to the people.
The obvious answer to the question of what to do with the central waterfront is this – the NRA should immediately transfer its land holdings to the Newburyport Waterfront Trust, in full and without any intervention by the City - so that the Trust could expand and improve upon Market Landing Park.
This would accomplish most of the goals of most of the parties involved, and all of the goals of the NRA as was recently stated in print by their Chair, Tom Salemi, on January 23, 2014 when he wrote to the Daily News that the NRA has “sought a way to expand our waterfront park without costing the existing Newburyport taxpayers a penny.”
Well, this is “the way”, it’s simple to implement, and the benefits are clear:
1. The land would then be owned by one entity, so all conflicts about who controls which areas, who is responsible for mowing, trimming, plowing, etc. would be eliminated. Single-point responsibility is always the best path.
2. The purpose of the Waterfront Trust (as enumerated in the Declaration of Public Trust) is “to hold, manage, maintain . . . conserve and utilize the ‘public trust lands’ as natural resources for use and enjoyment by the public in perpetuity . . .” so that the land would be forever protected from any further attempts at commercial, private or municipal development.
3, The ongoing revenue from the parking on both the east and west lots, as it accumulates, along with other existing sources of Trust income, would more than suffice to construct new and improved facilities thereupon ie play areas, improved parking surfaces, etc., as well as to appropriately maintain the property. Any eventual excess cash buildup could be used to establish an endowment which would then support the park when and/or if parking space is decreased or is eliminated in favor of expanding the green spaces.
4. Since the area would eventually be more than self-sustaining due to the revenues from parking, existing rentals and fees, the City would be completely and permanently relieved of its responsibility to financially support the Trust (which it is currently failing to do) so the actual current (potential) tax burden on the residents would be eliminated.
5. The NRA could then conduct an expedited early closeout and be out of business relatively quickly, something that the NRA claims to desire.
6. There is money available from HUD for the closeout of redevelopment authorities. This could be used to clean up any pollution and for initial capitol improvements. At no charge to the City.
7. There would never be any new tax burden placed on the residents of the city to support Market Landing Park.
8. In the remote chance that any additional money should ever be required for maintenance or capitol projects, grants and donations could easily fill the temporary monetary void. No City funding would be required.
9. The space would be relatively storm-proof and would be environmentally friendly, qualities that large buildings cannot possibly claim to possess.
10. All improvements could be accomplished in easily-funded stages. The entire project need not be completed immediately. There is no hurry. Do it slowly, as money becomes available, and do it right – the leisurely pace would allow for careful planning and evaluation of options.
11. If the transfer process were to begin immediately, in the spring the Trust could begin breaking ground – and a new and improved park and parking lots, if only the initial stages of same, would be up and running by this coming summer for all to enjoy – in perpetuity. No more dirt lots!
12. COW stands by, ready, willing and able to help the Waterfront Trust secure funding via grants (among our numbers we claim several experienced, extremely successful grant writers) and/or general fundraising. Additionally we are willing to help in any other ways that might be required (as our membership also includes many well-educated and highly-skilled individuals representing various and relevant professions) to ensure that the end result becomes indeed the polished “Crown Jewel” of Newburyport. And this offer of help remains on the table for as long as it is needed.
Mr. Salemi also wrote, on the following day, that “I’d say everyone in the city wants a (sic) expanded park and improved parking with minimal/no impact to the taxpayer. . . I’m open to hearing how the city would like to fund those improvements without impacting taxpayers.”
Apparently Mr. Salemi fully agrees with COW!
So, instead of using the Union Studios plan as a starting point, I urge you to use the COW concept as a starting point instead and to strongly encourage that that approach be taken by the Mayor and the NRA as well. Not only does it reflect the will of the majority of the people, it fulfills the stated goals of most of the interested parties, most notably the NRA itself.
Let’s keep our waterfront open. Let’s all work together to make our waterfront park the best park in the country. A destination for the nation. And beyond.