Councilors Approve Variety of Measures to Support Harbor Place

The Haverhill City Council gives its support to a series of measures to further redevelopment in parts of the downtown Waterfront Zoning District, including the Harbor Place project and the Stevens Street side of Little River.

With two amendments added under a suspension of the rules, councilors unanimously approved the city’s request to discontinue the portion of Wall Street within the Harbor Place construction project between the Basiliere Bridge and City Landing 12, an access way off Merrimack Street adjacent to the Landmark building. However, under advice of the city solicitor, as many as three councilors abstained from voting on the amendments, filed after a Friday council agenda deadline. Six councilors approved one amendment, a so-called “assumption agreement” allowing the mayor to transfer rights under a July, 2014 lease for 100 parking spaces at the Merrimack Street parking deck between Merrimack Street Ventures, LLC and Merrimack Street Owner, LLC. Councilors Melinda Barrett, Michael S. McGonagle and Thomas Sullivan abstained as Merrimack Street business owners. Sullivan, however, did not abstain from a second amendment passed by seven votes. It revises an earlier “reciprocal easement agreement and release of easements” to include “an access and utility easement area across the parcel belonging to Vintage Treasure Realty Trust, 68-70 Merrimack Street.”

“This is an amendment to a reciprocal easement agreement that you approved and authorized the mayor to enter into back in June of this year,” City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. explained to the council. “The purpose of that whole easement agreement is to essentially give site control to the Harbor Place venture. And what happened was they forgot to include, or failed to include, an easement for the building most folks know as Angel Care on Merrimack Street. And so, this incorporates that into the agreement.”

Barrett and McGonagle also abstained as councilors approved a request from Economic and Planning Director William Pillsbury granting him authority over signage design within the Merrimack Street portion of the Waterfront Zoning District, including Harbor Place. Pillsbury told councilors applications for signage will require a review before a building permit is issued.

“This is not to be obstructive or difficult, it’s just to have a level of review to make sure that it’s consistent with the architecture on the buildings and things like that. And so that will be, as the mayor said, a temporary solution until we receive the results of the much bigger and much more in-depth, detailed analysis that we’re going to do of the downtown,” Pillsbury said.

Also, councilors unanimously approved an amended request to revise a zoning Table of Use to require a special permit process by the council for future uses of the Industrial General (IG) zone on Stevens Street, excluding general offices. Nearby Hale Street was removed from the original proposal. Mayor James J. Fiorentini said while there are no immediate plans for Hale Street, Stevens Street has “some tremendous potential.”

“We’re going to re-engage our waterfront zoning outside expert. Her name is Denise McClure, she did a great job on the waterfront zoning, and ask her to take a look at Stevens Street and to tell us what’s the potential. What can we do there with those old abandoned factory buildings in order to help build a next renaissance along the waterfront there. But again, once something goes in it’s grandfathered in forever,” Fiorentini said.

No opposition was offered during public hearings on those measures for the Waterfront Zoning District.

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