Tuesday, June 16, 2009


A reader sent me this clarification, after I had declared in a previous post that the Waterfront Trust was established to stop development on the waterfront:

Actually, the Waterfront Trust wasn't established to stop development on the central waterfront.

Establishing a trust was part of a settlement of a court case brought by the Friends of the Newburyport Waterfront in 1973. The case wound its way through the courts until its was decided by the state Appeals Court in 1980. The Appeals Court decision found that three ancient "ways to the waterfront" -- public pathways from the downtown commercial district to the river -- had never been legally extinguished and remanded the case back to state Land Court.

City Solicitor Richard Jones, now the city clerk, and Friends member and attorney William Harris, who lives on Lime Street now but was in California then, negotiated an agreement that set up the trust and five "ways," the three from the court decision and two more that could be moved to accommodate buildings as long as they began and ended at their historical locations. (The Friends had originally sought to preserve 11 ways.)

The Land Court then incorporated the settlement into its final decree. The trust was set up to own and manage the ways and the NRA threw in the boardwalk as well. The point of the ways case was to control the shape of development, not halt it completely. If the ways exist, a developer has to position building perpendicular to the river, preserving some visual and physical access. If the ways are extinguished a developer can put up buildings parallel to the river, cutting off the public. A parallel design, chosen by the NRA, is what got the whole thing going in 1973.
I would guess that all those "ways" kind of prohibit much development, though, whether it be parallel or perpendicular. But I guess if you allowed one of those "ways" to be used to get to an abutting development that is parallel to the river ... that would be okee-dokee.

I also wonder about the words "own and manage." Apparently there is some research going on as to whether the Waterfront Trust owns the land and/or the "ways," or merely manages it and the "ways," for the city.

Now you can see a little bit of why the re-appointment of Waterfront Trust chairman Cliff Goudey was such a hot one - even though all anyone would do was hint at this aspect of it.

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