Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Monday, January 26, 2015

Storm Information (provided by Councilor Cronin)

The following is up to the minute information regarding the pending storm:

City Council meeting scheduled for this evening is CANCELLED.  It is rescheduled for Thursday 1/29 at 7:30
Committee meetings are scheduled as well
A PARKING BAN goes into effect at 5:00 PM -- towing begins at 6:00
Salvation Army is being set up as a warming station
There is NO overnight shelter at this time
Schools are cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday as well as evening activities
City Hall is closed on Tuesday
Trash pickup is cancelled for Tuesday and Wednesday and WILL NOT be rescheduled.  Hold your trash until next week
Recycling is also cancelled.  They will pick recycling up next week then resume regular schedule
Public Safety urges people on Plum Island to evacuate before the storm; evacuation may not be possible due to flooding tides and white out conditions
Police, Fire and EMS will preposition on PI as well
Meals on Wheels cancelled for Tuesday
MVRTA  shut down as well
Please check the City of Newburyport website for updates.

Robert J. Cronin
Newburyport City Council
Councillor, Ward 3
Chair, Public Safety
Chair, City Council Rules
Member, Budget & Finance

Newburyport City Hall
60 Pleasant Street
P.O. Box 550
Newburyport MA 01950

Cell: 978 857 9249

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Volunteer to Serve on a Board or Commission

Newburyport—Mayor Donna Holaday is accepting letters of interest and resumes from residents interested in serving on Newburyport’s boards and commissions.  The following have openings for those interested in volunteering their time:
Affordable Housing Trust
Bartlet Mall
Board of Health
Commission on Diversity & Tolerance
Highland Cemetery
Newburyport Housing Authority
Planning Board
Tree Commission
Zoning Board of Appeals
Members must be residents of the City.  Membership for the Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals is based on experience and whenever possible includes: an architect or landscape architect, an engineer, a realtor or developer, an affordable housing specialist, an environmental planner and an attorney.  At this time, residents with backgrounds in environmental engineering or land use planning are especially encouraged to apply.  Meetings are generally held twice a month.
Additional information can be found on the City’s website:  Qualified residents should submit a letter of interest and resume to: Mayor’s Office, City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street, Newburyport, MA 01950, Attn: Lois Honegger.
All appointments are voluntary and unpaid positions.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


 Just hours after taking the oath of office, Gov. Charlie Baker directed the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to follow through on his campaign promise to release immediately $100 million in Chapter 90 bond authorizations that had been withheld by the previous administration.

           In his inaugural address, Gov. Baker also declared that he would oppose further cuts to local aid, even as his administration grapples with an inherited mid-year budget deficit that could reach $750 million, according to the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and other budget experts.

           The Massachusetts Municipal Association and local officials from across the state applaud Governor Baker for recognizing the importance of investing in our local transportation systems, and understanding the damage that would be caused by mid-year cuts to local aid. Releasing the $100 million in withheld Chapter 90 funds and protecting municipal aid are important elements of a strong state-local partnership to improve our economy, enhance public safety, and build stronger communities.

           A letter from Gov. Baker was issued yesterday informing local officials of his decision to release the funds, meaning that cities and towns will now receive the full $300 million in Chapter 90 funding authorized for fiscal 2015 – a record level of funding.

           A $300 million Chapter 90 authorization for fiscal 2015 was included in a $13 billion transportation bond bill enacted last year. Decisions about how much funding to actually release are made by the governor’s office, however, and the Patrick administration decided to release just $200 million.

           At the 2014 MMA Annual Meeting last January, then-candidate Baker famously declared that he would release the full $300 million “before I take my jacket off on my first day,” a statement that was met with loud applause from the hundreds of local officials in the audience.

           The MMA is currently compiling the results of an updated local road funding needs survey, which will be used to document the need for a $300 million annual authorization for Chapter 90 in a multi-year bond bill that needs to pass early this year to ensure that Chapter 90 funding will continue in fiscal years 2016 and beyond.

           Please click on this link to read Gov. Baker's Chapter 90 announcement and letter to municipalities:

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Update for News or Announcement: Affordable Housing Lottery for Heritage Landing

Heritage Landing Condominiums is a new 10 unit development offering 1 new luxury two-bedroom unit available to those who meet certain income and asset restrictions.  This newly-constructed condo will be available through a lottery, details of which may be found on the attached documents.
If you have any questions, please contact Maureen O’Hagan at (978) 456-8388.
Important Dates:
  • Wednesday, January 28, 2015 – Public Information Meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, Newburyport City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street
  • Saturday, January 31st – Open House from 11-1, 124 Merrimac Street, Unit B
  • Thursday, February 19, 2015 – Application Deadline
  • Monday, March 2, 2015 – Lottery at 6:30 p.m. in the Mayor’s Conference Room, 2nd Floor, Newburyport City Hall

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Snow Emergency Parking Ban Reminders

With winter weather settling in, the City would like to remind residents about our winter parking policies and procedures. While each storm presents different challenges, generally when three (3) or more inches of snow is forecast, a snow emergency parking ban is declared. The City communicates this information through a number of different channels:
- Blue lights are activated before the ban goes into effect.
- Announcement is posted on the homepage of the City's website.  To receive email notifications from the website sent directly to your inbox, please register your email address by clicking on the Notify Me icon on the homepage.  
- CodeRed phone call goes out to all registered residents.  To receive these phone calls from the City, please click on the CodeRed icon on the homepage of the City's website and enter your contact information.
- WNBP (106.1 FM & 1450 AM) and PortMedia (Ch. 8 & 9) are notified and broadcast this information.
- Residents may also call the Department of Public Services at 978-465-4464 if they are unsure about the timing of the parking ban or have other questions about the snow emergency.
Please click on this flyer from the Department of Public Services for more information on parking bans, including blue light and off street parking locations, as well as related snow clearing activities.

“Back Bay Neighborhood Zoning Change - Joint Public Hearing with Planning & Development Committee of the Council

City of Newburyport
Planning Board Joint Public Hearing
December 3, 2014

The meeting was called to order at 7:09 PM.
1. Roll Call
In attendance for the Planning Board: Sue Grolnic, Doug Locy, Noah Luskin, Leah McGavern,
Bonnie Sontag, and Don Walters
Absent: Henry Coo and Jim McCarthy

In attendance for the Planning & Development Subcommittee: Barry Connell and Jared
Absent: Ed Cameron

Director of Planning and Development Andrew Port was also present.

2. Joint Public Hearing with Planning & Development Committee of the Council
a) Amend the Zoning Map referenced in the Newburyport Zoning Ordinance pursuant to
Section 111-D “Changes to Zoning Map” such that the R3 Zone between Route 1,
State Street and Pond Street is hereby changed to an R2 Zone, said area to include all
such parcels of land so depicted on a map entitled “Back Bay Neighborhood Zoning
Change – Proposed,” prepared by the Office of Planning & Development and dated
September 23rd, 2014.

Acting Chair Bonnie Sontag read the notice. Director Port presented a zoning map of
Newburyport highlighting the present R3 zoned district of Back Bay. He explained what it
meant to become an R2 district compared with the higher density R3 district, emphasizing the
undesirability of creating too many non-conformities by down zoning. A board member asked
what would look different from other R2 districts in terms of the number of non-conformities?
Director Port said the percentage would be typical. Councilor Eigerman explained that before the
proposal tonight, there had been previous discussion by the ad hoc zoning overhaul group of
down zoning Back Bay, but the area had yet to be defined. Councilor Eigerman favored the
smaller definition of the area.

A parcel in the extreme southwest corner had an ANR plan. Director Port said the ANR
application for 12 units on four lots sought special zoning relief, then the application was
withdrawn. The parcel was grandfathered, protected under state law, freezing the existing
zoning. Eight units could still be proposed.
A board member said the smaller area proposed for down zoning in the Back Bay was submitted
by Councilor Cronin to City Council. Acting Chair Connell said the Council was not required to
take up Councilor Cronin’s recommendation, but that was unlikely. A board member said the  discussion concerned two different outlines for proposed down zoning in the Back Bay.

Councilor Eigerman said interested parties submitted the two different boundaries. Should the
frontage along Route One be treated separately? He had been persuaded against the idea because
Route One represented a hard boundary for the neighborhood. Acting Chair Connell said
topographical issues made development complicated.

In context of the comprehensive zoning rewrite, a board member asked if there were reasons why
the down zoning issue was submitted at this time? Councilor Eigerman was not sure, given the
broad charge, when the zoning overhaul would finalize, but a petition was before them now.
Acting Chair Connell said near this time last year we took up numerous zoning ordinance
housekeeping changes. We should not feel constrained by that. A board member asked if there
were more petitions expected? Councilor Eigerman doubted it; the ad hoc group had not
considered down zoning anywhere else and Back Bay was the only instance where the group
thought R3 zoning was inappropriate. A board member asked why the large area up to the left
was not included?

Councilor Cronin said he received a neighborhood petition with 92 signatures precipitated by
several proposed projects over the years. A general concern was large projects in inappropriate
areas resulting from a tear down. A Back Bay resident, Andy Morris collected the signatures.
The proposed down zoning area was limited to those who signed the petition and did not include
streets where neighbors did not sign the petition. He believed the change was overdue and that
the large area a board member asked about should be included, but the property owner had not
signed the petition.

A board member asked what the timetable for the zoning rewrite was? Director Port thought by
late spring 2015 something would be ready to go before City Council.
Public comment open.

Andy Morris, 23 Cherry Street, represented the smaller petitioner’s map. He said the change was
in the best interest of the neighborhood and the City, and represented responsible growth.
Twenty-two percent of the lots were multifamily; 78% of proposed lots could still be developed
as two-families; and 94 residents had signed showing their full support.

Steve Gravelle, 3 Hillside Avenue, a resident for 43 years, was under the impression that Hillside
Avenue and Cottage Court were part of Back Bay. Those streets were left out intentionally; no
one asked them to sign the petition. They would like to be considered part of the zoning change.
Attorney Lisa Mead, representing a property owner, argued that her client’s property was not
part of Back Bay. Her client did not sign the petition to be rezoned. The board and subcommittee
could not upsize the proposed zone without re-advertising. The R2 did not allow multi-family
dwellings at all. Her client had filed the necessary ANR to protect a multi-family use for the
area. She had reviewed a strategic land use document specifying City goals to increase housing
variety and affordability. How did that fit in with the overall planning process? The parcels that
faced Route One had a different feel than the rest of Back Bay. The down zoning would impact
goals to achieve diverse and affordable housing. She knew the petition resulted from the application her client made; neighbors did not want the size of the project. The area should be looked at in the context of the City’s greater goals.

Tim Loring, 26 Hill Street, said it was a quality of life issue and asked for consideration of the
lifetime investments he and others had made in their homes and lives. They were not an isolated
neighborhood, but part of a whole.

Lorraine Loring, 26 Hill Street, said the state took away her grandfather’s property to create
Route One was now. She did not want to see huge changes and was happy with the way the
neighborhood was now. Her 96-year old mother was still in the same Back Bay house.

Tom Joy, 51 Pond Street, said the legal notice defined the area as bounded by Pond Street. He
recommended Cottage Court, one of the oldest sections of Back Bay, be included. His house
bordering Cottage Court was an original Back Bay house, but he was not approached to sign the
petition. He didn’t know there was a petition, but deserved the same protection. Director Port
said the notice summarized the boundaries rather than described them in detail.

Paul Benoit, 45 Pond Street, believed his exclusion from, or lack of awareness of, the petition
was due to his unfavorable view of the down zoning. Pond Street residents, in mostly singlefamily
homes, wanted to participate in the petition to protect the quality of life in the

Dawn Vallejo, 27 Cherry Street, said, with respect to the need for housing diversity and
affordability in the city, Back Bay was already extremely diverse. The narrow, hilly streets were
not always plowed and the housing stressed the City’s water and sewer services. Developers saw
only the opportunity for investment and making money. She was in favor of the down zoning.

Mark Deyermond, 5 Hillside Avenue, supported the down zoning and asked what would it take
to include Pond Street, Hillside Avenue, and Cottage Court? Acting Chair Sontag said a new
petition, a re-announcement, and a new hearing.

Barbara Oswald, 158 State Street, said the small, dense neighborhood with tight, little streets was
a Kelley School neighborhood, full of one- and two-family homes that kept the neighborhood
safe. She was in favor of down zoning.
Councilor Cronin asked if it would make sense to stop the process, take a step back, and expand
the petition to include Cottage Court and Hillside Avenue. He would re-post the hearing.

Councilor Eigerman supported the current petition and was ready to go forward. He did not have
a position on expanding the area, but would not be ready to go forward with Dalton Street added.
His constituents on Hill Street were not in favor of the down zoning. Reaching out to other
residents could be done later. Acting Chair Connell said Councilor Eigerman could sit down with
the consultant who was examining the City’s zoning. Councilor Eigerman said he was interested
in providing relief to petitioners now because it could be a long time before anything else could
be accomplished if they did not proceed with what they had consensus on now.

David Hall, 43 Low Street, Newbury, owns the large parcel accessed from Cottage Street and
Hillside Ave. not included in the down zoning proposal. He was at an unfortunate juxtaposition
with a quiet neighborhood that perceived itself rightly as primarily single-family homes. He had
borrowed a million dollars to clean up the contaminated site that was littered with vehicles and
debris for many years to develop within the R3 zoning framework. He had undertaken a large
and risky endeavor with the understanding that the zoning was R3. Route One was different than
Hill Street. The block bound by Dalton Street, Greenleaf Street, Pond Street, and Hill Street had
a density of 15 units per acre. His project was consistent with a portion of the Back Bay
neighborhood. His position should be considered, particularly in that his property abutted a
stretch of Route One that consisted of four high-speed highway lanes with guardrails. He felt that
part of Route One was a remnant that should someday be re-envisioned and he hoped to play a
role in making that happen.

Patty Deyermond, 5 Hillside Avenue, said Back Bay’s quality of life reflected R2 zoning. She
was not opposed to appropriate development and favored the down zoning.

Debbie Gravelle, 3 Hillside Avenue, asked how long the process would be to extend the Back
Bay boundary? Director Port said, at a minimum, typically two months before action by the City
Council, but lengthy debate could make it longer. Councilor Eigerman thought it would not reach
the City Council until March because of the holidays. Acting Chair Sontag said the present
hearing would continue to the next meeting. Ms. Gravelle asked if development would proceed
in the R3 zone in the meantime?

Mr. Joy asked if it would be quicker to table the proposal, put in the changes, and start over than
to start a new petition? His concern was being split off from the strength in numbers of the whole
Back Bay voice. Councilor Eigerman said the practical matter of the holidays did not make either
option quicker and a petition was not required. Acting Chair Sontag said there would be no less
consideration for a smaller number of residents representing an issue. Councilor Eigerman said
there was no dispute that Back Bay extended up to CVS. And Mr. Hall had raised a good point
about the density of Dalton Street.

Mr. Benoit asked if Cottage Court and Hillside Avenue could be included tonight? Councilor
Eigerman said that change would need to be re-advertised and re-noticed to be considered.
Councilor Bruce Vogel reinforced that a show of numbers from the neighborhood was not a
consideration on the issue and encouraged the board and subcommittee to move forward with the
proposed plan and to include additional interested streets at a later date. Councilor Eigerman said
action taken tonight would not guarantee the issue would make it out of committee tonight. We
could wait until next year to add another ordinance to it, while moving forward on the rest.

Public comment closed.

Board member comments: Several areas in the city needed zoning addressed; was there a
pressing need in Back Bay? The petition did not rule out future consideration of abutter’s issues;
it made sense to move forward with the proposal. Despite a preponderance of single-family
houses, Back Bay had been R3 for a long time. A case could be made that R3 zoning was not
negatively affecting the quality of life. Why did the petitioner go only to certain people? Why
omit other areas? Down zoning set a precedent. A responsible action would address other
sections of town with similar issues. Low rates concern people. Multiple members concurred that
down zoning was appropriate for the area, but deciding boundaries was difficult. A different feel
existed on different streets, in particular, Route One. The larger boundaries elicited mixed

Acting Chair Sontag supported the petitioner’s proposal and observed that with down-zoning,
more properties would become non-conforming. Owning a non- conforming parcel was not
inherently a bad thing, but would result in homeowners needing to obtain higher levels of
permitting should they want to construct additions on their homes. Additions to pre-existing
multi-family structures would require owners to apply for and obtain a variance which is more
onerous than obtaining a special permit. The permit and variance process can be time consuming
and costly. Another member stated that zoning was meant to address the future as well as the
present. She did not want residents to believe multi-family homes would negatively affected the
quality of life, nor did she understand why sections of Route One were included when it was not
petitioned and when those sections were clearly different from other parts of the proposed area.
In the future, those sections of Route One could serve a better use than one- or two-family

Acting Chair Connell agreed that down zoning had advantages and disadvantages. The change
may not offer the dramatic relief petitioners envisioned. Boundaries should include the upper left
parcel for a contiguous neighborhood. The medical building and courthouse should be excluded.
He would not vote against the proposal if the ‘boundary reducing’ exclusions were not made.
Councilor Eigerman said the City was not an undifferentiated whole; topographically, Back Bay
was different from the rest of the City. He’d observed the angst in the neighborhood, but downzoning
would still have allowed the controversial Cherry Street project to be approved. The
proposed boundaries were a reasonable way to balance the interests of the City. The medical
building did not need to be excised, but if it were, he would still be in favor of the proposal.
Some homes on Cherry Street were due to be redeveloped. Neighbors were saying a two-family
was a reasonable compromise, but not a multi-family. The debate for Mr. Hall’s project would
come forward soon. He expressed concern that tonight’s discussion could loose the thread of
what was trying to get approved because Mr. Hall’s proposal was unusual. He wanted to get the
down-zoning, as it stood, done without including discussion of the Cherry Street building and
Attorney Mead’s client’s property. He disagreed with waiting until the zoning rewrite was

Planning Board members commented. The zoning rewrite could determine that Back Bay should
be something else. Zoning approved tonight would not be ironclad. Acting Chair Sontag agreed
that anything could change again. Members knew it would take at least a year to get the zoning
overhaul reconstructed and through City Council. Whatever the state of Back Bay zoning when
citywide rezoning began, it would not be locked in concrete. Director Port described and
differentiated the difference between zoning changes and the master plan, which did not involve
drastic changes in boundaries. Some members agreed with carving out Route One parcels and
also noted the difference in character along State Street. Director Port said the larger map was created to help Councilor Cronin understand the entire Back Bay area. The smaller area was
attached to the petition. Councilor Eigerman believed State Street was different from Back Bay,
in general.

A member recommended approving the boundaries as they appeared in the original petition
proposed. Some members recommended the medical building and/or the ANR properties be
removed. Acting Chair Sontag said the ANR’d four parcels were still part of the neighborhood
and affected the feel of the neighborhood because anything built on them would not face one
direction on the map. If there was extreme density there, it would affect the neighborhood
because of the way the neighbors feel about it, and it should be developed with that in mind.
Each parcel could still have two units. A member addressed the impact of Route One, trying to
envision it as other than a highway. The Cherry Street medical building acted as a buffer to
Route One for the neighborhood. Acting Chair Sontag had no problem removing the medical
building from the proposal. Members said the boundary rationale was people who had signed the
petition. Topographically, the medical building was part of the neighborhood. If the undeveloped
parcels were part of the neighborhood, they deserved the kind of protection that required
development in keeping with the neighborhood. State Street was already built. If the parcel not
built was taken out, it remained R3 and could be built as 12 units. That would look significantly
different when viewed from within the neighborhood, therefore it should stay in the proposal.
Noah Luskin recommended approval of the R2 zoning with the Cherry Street medical building
removed. Sue Grolnic seconded and five members voted in favor. Don Walters abstained.
Motion Approved.

During the course of discussion and consideration of this application, plan(s), supporting
material(s), department head comments, peer review report(s), planning department comments
and other related documents, all as filed with the planning department as part of this application
and all of which are available in the planning department, were considered.

Councilor Eigerman said the petition was important, but not explanatory nor the end of the issue.
The blocks closer to CVS were different. The Cherry St. medical building did not conform to R2
or R3. His proposal was a recommendation to the full Council as shown in yellow on the map
with no exceptions. Acting Chair Connell did not believe that would change anything. Whether
we excise the medical building or not is moot. Likewise, the parcel represented by Attorney
Mead has had its interests protected. He agreed that the strong residential character had been well
represented by the neighbors.

Barry Connell made a motion to accept the recommendation of the Planning Board and include
the Cherry Street medical building parcel in the amendment. Jared Eigerman seconded.

Motion Approved.
Public Hearing closed at 9:12 pm.