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January 1, 2014

City Council to look into new zoning rules for waterfront

HAVERHILL — The new City Council’s first decision could be it’s most important of the coming year.

Mayor James Fiorentini said he will urge the council at its Jan. 7 meeting to approve new rules for developing property along the Merrimack River, including some of the most notable, vacant parcels in the city. The new council, which includes eight incumbents and one new-comer, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 6.

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.

City planning officials and a committee formed by the mayor have been working on the zoning measure for several years. Fiorentini submitted the plan to the council in November.

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.

The mayor said the plan for the Bradford side of the river is to rezone those key properties for residential use.

“After a lot of thought and talking with neighbors, we decided the old industrial areas on the Bradford side of the river, such as the Haverhill Paperboard site and the old lumberyard, should be residential not industrial,” Fiorentini said. “The majority of residents over there want it to be residential, and industry doesn’t want to be there anymore anyway. Today industry wants to be near highways, not rail and waterways.”

The new rules would also govern development of some of downtown’s most high-profile buildings, such as the Woolworth, Ocasio and Newman’s Furniture buildings on Merrimack Street. Those buildings are being eyed for development by a group that includes the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston and the Greater Haverhill Foundation.

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