HAVERHILL — The future of development along the Merrimack River is likely to be the first big decision for the new City Council or the last important one by the current group.
Sometime in late December or early January, councilors are expected to vote on a proposal by Mayor James Fiorentini to adopt new rules for developing property along the river, including some of the most notable and vacant parcels in the city.
The mayor’s proposal creates eight separate zones for developing property along the river, each with different rules aimed at encouraging specific uses and providing public access to the waterfront.
“This is one of the most important things we’re going to be doing next year,” Fiorentini said of the proposal. “The river belongs to all of us, not just developers who are fortunate enough to be able to own property on it.”
The plan, which planning officials and a committee formed by the mayor have been working on for several years, is expected to impact Haverhill for years to come.
Fiorentini submitted his waterfront zoning ordinance to the council this week. The Planning Board is expected to hold a public hearing on the proposal in December and then pass along recommendations to the council, said city planning official Andrew Herilihy. The council, by majority vote, can amend the proposal prior to voting.
“The timing is such that it’s likely to be ready for a vote around the first of the year,” Herlihy said of the zoning ordinance.
All nine council seats are up for grabs in Tuesday’s election. The new council’s first meeting is expected to be Jan. 7.
The new waterfront zoning would control development on various properties, including the site of the former Friend’s Landing nightclub at 85 Water St.; the city-owned Ornstein Heel property and the privately owned Haverhill Paperboard site, both in Bradford; as well as another large parcel once known as Hoyt and Worthen Tanning.