City Agrees to Buy 33-Acre Whittier Road Site for Open Space

Some 33 acres of rural land within the Millvale Reservoir watershed area will be purchased by the City of Haverhill for water supply protection and preservation.

The Haverhill City Council, by a unanimous 8 to 0 vote Tuesday night, approved city plans to spend $200,000 to buy a 33.4-acre parcel from owner Arnold Seaver, adjacent to 226 Whittier Road. The city will assume an option secured by Essex County Greenbelt Association, About 1,000 feet of the East Meadow River, the source for the Millvale Reservoir, runs through the property. The city will also apply for a drinking water supply protection grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, according to Water Superintendent and Deputy Public Works Director Robert E. Ward. Councilor William H. Ryan voiced concern over an idea to give future development veto power to the greenbelt association and also suggested installing sewer lines to replace septic tanks.

“I’ve suggested in the past—and it hasn’t come up—that we start by running the sewer line down Amesbury Road to the Merrimac line and then eventually going off on all the streets that lead off route 110 and Amesbury Road. And bring every one of those homes because that is the watershed for Millvale and Kenoza Lake. Everything starts up in that area,” Ryan said.

“When we’re looking at, maybe, 50, 75 years from now, who knows what the situation is going to be down there,” Ryan added. “We may need the land for something and we may not longer need it for a watershed because we’ll have everyone on the sewerage. Maybe you’ll want to build a school. We don’t know where the city will be at that point in time. I think we have enough, within the City of Haverhill, authority to protect and keep things without giving a veto to a group that may not even be in existence 50 or 75 years from now. We’ll have to go into a long legal battle to be able to untangle it.”

Councilor Michael S. McGonagle pointed out there is a mechanism through the legislature to change the open space designation, if so desired in the future.

“There is a mechanism, under protection, that if things change say, 50 years from now—Councilor Ryan will probably still be on the council here—there is a way to go back to the state and apply to both houses and the governor if we want to change that use. So there is a mechanism to do that. I think we’re okay there and I think there’s nothing better to keep this city a city and the rural part of it than protecting open space and keeping the drinking water pure, as pure as we can,” McGonagle said.

Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien was absent.

One thought on “City Agrees to Buy 33-Acre Whittier Road Site for Open Space

  1. Why did Billy Ryan never advocate for bringing sewer lines down Broadway and up to the area surrounding Crystal Lake, which is part of the city water supply chain, when he was claiming to live out that way. Why hasn’t the mayor done a damn thing about extending sewer service (the only extension on Broadway, to Billy Ryan’s Faux Farm, was a condition of a subdivision when he stopped grabbing the agriculture tax break for the Faux Farm and sold out.)

    The fact is, nobody gives a damn about anything but downtown these days. Any ambitious pols out there could stroll to an easy win for mayor in 2017, or council this year, by getting out to the neighborhoods and talking to people about how they’re ignored.

    Haverhill is a city, yet thousands of its residents rely on wastewater disposal systems that are relics of rural life in the 18th century, and the likes of Billy Ryan pander to the issue of the day. But then all the attention to downtown is needed because of the way it rotted while he was mayhorl