NEWBURYPORT — The City Council’s Committee on Waterfront West issued its final report to the full council Monday, recommending further studies, zoning amendments and a requirement the developer include a hotel and limit the size of retail shops and restaurants to keep out “big box” chain stores.
The ad hoc committee’s final report describes the committee’s findings on New England Development’s Waterfront West project, including recommending terms of a development agreement with a future project sponsor.
Included in the report are recommendations the lowest residential floors begin two feet above the mapped Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plan, and that any special permit applications for the Waterfront West Overlay District be accompanied by a flood mitigation study and action plan, which would be peer-reviewed by a city consultant. Committee members also recommended applications be required to include studies on traffic impacts, parking, water and wastewater impacts, stormwater runoff, flood mitigation and sustainability measures.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Waterfront West also recommended the city require NED to include the hotel and between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet of retail space. The report also suggested the City Council set maximum size requirements for shops and restaurants to prevent chain stores from opening.
Waterfront West is a large, multi-use proposal that New England Development has planned for its five-acre property between Michael’s Harborside and the former Black Cow restaurant. The developer’s most recent plans featured several buildings, including a hotel and between 130 and 170 condominiums.
After some councilors expressed uncertainty about the latest plans, they formed the Ad Hoc Committee on Waterfront West in November 2018 to review the Overlay District and update it if necessary. During its six meetings, the committee discussed the development’s flooding and resilience plans, land uses, dimensions, open space, parking, design standards and public benefits.
The committee’s voting members are Ward 2 Councilor Jared Eigerman, Ward 3 Councilor Heather Shand and Ward 5 Councilor Larry Giunta, as well as at-large Councilors Afroz Khan and Joseph Devlin. The committee also includes Planning Director Andy Port and Planning Board Vice Chair Leah McGavern as nonvoting members.
Also recommended in the report is a requirement for a “public square” that exceeds 10,000 square feet in area and will serve as a public destination.
The report also states that “large, surface area parking lots must be avoided,” and that “parking should be encouraged within building ground floors to the maximum extent possible, recessed and properly screened from public view.”
The committee also recommended that 12 percent of the housing units be affordable housing, and that the council also consider requiring some units to be made affordable to households making 50 percent or less of the area medium income.
The City Council tabled action on the report Monday to allow residents a chance to review it and speak for up to two minutes each during the public comment portion of the Feb. 11 council meeting.
Eigerman said the council will eventually draft an ordinance regarding requirements for Waterfront West, but not before councilors see three-dimensional computer models of the developer’s plans.
On Monday, the City Council authorized Port to coordinate with NED on the computer models.
“This is just the report, we’ve got months ahead of us,” said Eigerman. “Before we do anything, we want to see a digital representation of what the project is going to look like. If a 3D model comes back and not one city councilor likes it, it’s over.”
Staff writer Jack Shea covers Newburyport City Hall. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3154. Follow him on Twitter @iamjackshea.