Draft master plan "infill map"
prompts NPT response ... and city clarification
When the City of Newburyport's draft Master Plan was posted on the city's website for public comment in December 2016, the Generalized Future Land Use Map deep within the 232-page document was not expected to generate much attention. But apparently the map sent an unclear message about the sensitive issue of creeping "infill" development. View the map here.
But by the end of the public comment period (January 31, 2017) the land use map prompted not only public response, but an NPT member alert followed by newspaper coverage, a subsequent editorial, letters to the editor, social media postings, and NPT member letters to the city that questioned the
"Residential Infill Potential" areas on the map. Irritating the raw nerves was the city's apparent endorsement of infill in already-packed neighborhoods in the National Register Historic District.
The Newburyport Preservation Trust board of directors collaborated to craft a five-page point-by-point response to the infill designation and other preservation-related issues in the draft Master Plan. The NPT response was submitted to the city's Planning Office on January 26. Read NPT's commentary here.
The city's Master Plan draft, with the map, is on the city website, www.cityofnewburyport.com/ master-plan-steering-committee
NPT’s comments led to a meeting on February 3 with Mayor Donna Holaday and Planning Director Andrew Port. Port explained that the "Residential Infill Potential" areas on the map were merely to indicate the situation as it is today, given current zoning regulations. According to the Planning Dept. the map was not intended to be a welcoming fanfare for developers to shoehorn more homes into neighborhoods where some of the houses are already just two feet apart. The Mayor and the Planning Department said a suspended and long-overdue rewrite of the zoning code will promptly resume, section-by-section according to urgency, addressing infill and loss of historic structures as a priority.
Besides infill, other topics addressed in NPT's response included preventing the degradation of historic neighborhoods, architectural design standards-and-review, affordable housing, and the need for a zoning enforcement officer that works independent of the Building Department.
According to the Planning Dept., a revised draft of the Master Plan – with a new map – is forthcoming. Thanks to the questions raised in the first map, NPT and the city engaged in a valuable discussion on multiple preservation-related topics.