We will soon have a new Planning Director. Unfortunately, if it is someone who is not already familiar with the goings-on in this city, there are pressing urgencies that can not be put off any longer.
One of the most urgent because of the safety issue is the re-installing of the High Street Bike Paths. We advertise ourselves as a great place to ride bicycles. The MBTA has rigged one of their cars so people can take their bikes to Newburyport. There is the Clipper City Rail Trail, the Little River Bike Path and the bike route out to Plum Island. It is reasonable that bicycle enthusiasts will add beautiful High Street as part of they’re routes.
Right now, the lines have faded and no bicyclist or motorist is exactly sure where bike paths and car traffic is separated. It is not enough to say we have no money to pour the lines. SOMEONE IS GOING TO GET HURT OR DIE THIS SUMMER. The City needs to find the means and the ways to get this situation fixed before the main crush of tourists come.
The second and easiest priority for a planning director to do is establish a Preservation Tract Index in the Planning Office readily available for developers to inspect. The City has an ever increasing amount of preservation easements whether conservation-related or historically based. Every time CPC approves a project, a restriction must be imposed. After a few years, the list is going to get large. Mass General Law has outlined that an index of these property restrictions can be assembled and readily available. The Mayor needs to be the initiator and the Planning Director needs to point the need out.
The third priority is get the expansion of the Local Historic District ordinance jump started. The biggest challenge is the coordination of existing boards and commissions into some kind of consistent flow chart. This is the second biggest hurdle (the first is pure bigotry and ignorance) and a Planning Director is just the right person to do it. The LHD Study Committee needs the full support of the Planning Office.
The fourth priority is to get a consistent sidewalk plan for the City. We are a walk-able community and yet due to decades of assumed acceptability, our sidewalks are a state-wide embarassment. We need a consistent sidewalk manual so contractors will install cement instead of blacktop and in our historic district, brick instead of cement. Right now it is walkway chaos out there which encourages people to walk in the streets instead of the sidewalk. A small instruction sheet or policy manual would fix this situation. It needs the hand of the Planning Director.
Finally, the Planning Director has to return to the Master Plan. It is the guiding post of our City. If all the organs of the community have no overriding theme, then in the end, they become little islands of influence pulling the city in all different and disastrous ways and creating again little kingdoms working against each other rather than toward a unified goal.
A Planning Director is just the right person to coordinate the different organs of City Hall and to make them a team.
The objective is to get things done in this City for the general public’s benefit.
The Director becomes a conductor making sure all the ‘horn’ instruments work with the ‘wind’ instruments.