Some of the guest speakers at yesterday’s Symposium, “Historic Wharfs of Northern New England” stressed that one of the steps to avoid development ‘surprises’ is to overlay the extensive number of historic maps over the waterfront to locate the exact location of long demolished buildings and filled in wharves.
Not to stop development but to ‘clear the air’ historically. Many developers will take the time to have excavations made on their property so the history can be revealed. It can be an excellent public relations tool to reveal to the community what was there historically and it also will save money in that newer structures can be located in less sensitive areas or foundations can be placed that will not cause future problems.
Unfortunately, no such overlay was attempted for the new Sewer Plant Expansion on Water Street. Significant delays were occurred when the granite capping stones of Coombs Wharf were revealed. Exploratory diggings revealed heavily contaminated soils, old historic crib construction and unexpected obstructions. If the site designer and contractor had known of the prior history, they could have easily adjusted locations and saved a large amount of money.
Another problem is compartmentalized mentality. The Water/Sewer Department received more delays when the City’s long term plans for the Rail Trail were left out of designs and then there were the concerns of the American Yacht Club. This caused more stoppages and more citizens upset and of course, leading to more money expended. When these fiefdoms operate within the City without input from other concerned groups, whether government or private, the entire city suffers.
For example, the Harbor Commission contracted to dredge out the fish pier. Had they had input from the Maritime Society, they would have, with very little additional cost, dredged the back waterfront directly behind the Custom House. Then tall ships could have docked there, further enhancing the Historic and Maritime Tourism that has brought so much money into our City. Large plans are going on now to bring these ships into the harbor and they will have to be placed far away from the Custom House. The Commission never bothered to approach the Society.
ONE OPPORTUNITY LOST THAT WILL COST US MONEY FOR YEARS TO COME.*
New England Development is terrified of revealing prematurely their plans for the Waterfront and are seeking ways to get input without the public knowing. If they don’t get a public vetting process in place with all the different groups in the City, they are going to face UNNECESSARILY long delays as one organization after another feel their concerns are not met. They think that by buying large amounts of property they can avoid abutter outcries but Chapter 91 demands public access to their properties in addition to the rail trail and marine interests.
Abutters are nothing compared to the whole City being upset. There will always be a small AGIN ‘EM sector, but this should not stop developers from getting input from different groups and coordinating them into a viable plan.
* People who liked Mayor Moak with his “No plan is a good plan” aught to realize how much lost opportunity the City has suffered under his administration and prior ones like his and will suffer into the future if that mentality continues.
“What we must do to create a great community is to continue to make long term investments in the future of our city so that the prosperity that we enjoy now will also be enjoyed by future generations of Newburyporters. The issue is maintaining our prosperity.” – Jim Stiles, “One City, Two Visions”, Daily News, March, 2007