Economic Development Director William Pillsbury said the city is already talking to several developers and property owners interested in moving forward with major projects under the new rules.
“This is going to be the catalyst for change similar to what Newburyport and Lowell did 30 years ago,” Councilor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien said. “Now it’s Haverhill’s time.”
Another key component of the new rules is that developers will be required to, at a minimum, set aside a strip of land along the river for public access on all new developments. Developers who do more, such as create a public park or provide some other public benefit, will be given “density bonuses” to build more housing units than would otherwise be allowed.
Fiorentini said the new rules will help the city build a contiguous recreational pathway that will eventually loop downtown and hopefully someday stretch all the way to Groveland.
Councilors made one major change to the mayor’s original proposal.
They amended rules in the zone to give them limited oversight of proposals through a process called “major site plan review.” Residential projects larger than six units and commercial projects larger than 7,500 square feet will go before the council for its review. Smaller projects will be reviewed by city departments and the Planning Board, according to the ordinance.
“It was a compromise,” the mayor said of the change. “But I understand that councilors want to remain involved.”
The mayor said councilors pushed to remain involved in the process in private meetings with him.
“This plan will place Haverhill at the forefront for development for what developers can do by right and to get density bonuses,” Councilor William Macek said. “But the City Council needs to keep some oversight to satisfy the concerns of people who put us here.”