At the September 25 meeting of the Newport City Council, an ordinance was approved on first reading for a six-month moratorium on development in the north end of the City. Alliance for A Livable Newport (ALN) highly commends the Council’s action.
As many pointed out, there is need for coordination of the multitude of building projects, infrastructure projects, traffic/transportation plans and projects, either in process or being considered for the future.
Without a “pause,” decisions would be made in a silo, with consideration only for the immediate project. There is a desperate need for oversight to assure that decisions made regarding one project do not adversely impact other anticipated projects, the City as a whole and, most important, the quality of life in the neighborhoods surrounding the project. While the moratorium applies specifically to the north end of Newport, the same considerations apply to development throughout the City. Development decision making and changes to ordinances in Newport should be made to benefit the entire city.
Examples abound. The decisions regarding the Pell Bridge offramps will not only impact the traffic flow in and through the immediate area but also will impact future development in the surrounding Innovation District, critical access to and from Newport’s downtown area and the quality of life in our North End and The Point neighborhoods. Decisions regarding the building of additional hotels, stores, restaurants and residential housing will impact traffic flow, parking, energy, water and sewage usage, aesthetics (a harmonious streetscape, harbor views), waterfront access and the environment. Name any major project and it does not take much thought to realize the off-site impacts of that project. Our City planners need to view future development holistically, rather than fragmented.
The City now has a new City Planner and a new Director of Planning and Economic Development. The talented individuals filling those positions need time to become familiar with the intricate interconnected considerations affecting development and improvement projects in Newport. Numerous past studies, including the Open Space Plan, will help guide their effort. They need to develop procedures to assure ALL the impacts of projects are taken into consideration. They need to work with City’s staff, elected and appointed officials and board and commission members to assure that the City’s planning and zoning ordinances are up to date, provide the tools needed to properly monitor and control development, and are formulated to encourage future development in Newport by reducing the need of developers to seek variances.
Importantly, the moratorium is not offered to discourage development in Newport. Rather it is offered to maximize the value of current and future development, benefiting both developers and also Newport’s current residents and businesses. The results of proper, visionary planning, in harmony with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan, will make Newport a more attractive City for residents and businesses alike.
ALN sincerely hopes the moratorium is used effectively to lead to a more prosperous future and an improved quality of life for Newport.