Planning for our future
Michael Sweeney, Planning Director, City of Lawrence
Mayor Michael J. Sullivan and I have been working over the last few weeks to develop a more systematic method of dealing with the situation concerning vacant lots that are owned by the city of Lawrence. Together, we have identified between thirty-eight (38) and fifty (50) vacant lots that will serve as the initial vacant lots that will be addressed through a new concept developed by the Planning Department.
The far majority of these vacant lots are located on the north side of the city within an area between Broadway and Prospect Street. Each of the vacant lots has been guided through the Land Court legal process by the City Attorneys office and the one year right of redemption has passed.
For the first time, the Planning Depart-ment, working in conjunction with Mayor Sullivan, the City Council and various neighborhood groups, will present a com-plete plan for each of the vacant lots which will be submitted to the City Council for its final approval. At this time it is our intention to offer the majority of these lots through a public auction process to test whether the auction process offers the city of Lawrence a valuable tool in dealing with this issue.
Before that happens, the Planning Department will sit down with each councilor individually to gain feedback and insight to the particular needs and desires of the people they represent in individual districts and citywide.
Mayor Sullivan and the Planning Department have also started the process of seeking feedback from neighborhood and community groups that have a history of working within particular neighborhoods. Before the united plan is presented to the City Council, we will attempt to identify key vacant lots that might be best used as green space, off-street parking or to address other needs within particular neighborhoods.
The central pressing need for the City of Lawrence is to return vacant lots back to productive homes for our citizens and to help increase the revenue base for the city through the sale of a majority of these vacant lots.
This is just the first step. Mayor Sullivan and the Planning Department are optimistic that with increased communication between city departments and between the city and the stakeholders in the community, that we will be able to present an overall framework for the future disposition of vacant lots throughout the city.
Once this initial vacant lot plan is successful, we can begin to identify and target those vacant lots that are currently in Land Court and which of those should be the focus of the city to return to productive use. In each step of this process, Mayor Sullivan and the Planning Department will be seeking input and feedback from city councilors, residents and other stakeholders.
Already, city councilors Jorge Gonzalez, Nunzio Dimarca, Grisel Silva and Housing Chair Nilka Alvarez-Rodriguez have been extremely helpful in sharing their thoughts and concerns in a general manner with my office. Over the next few weeks, we will get detailed feedback from each councilor. We are greatly looking forward to working together with you during this exciting time in the history of our city.
Disaster Mitigation Plan
In the coming months, communities throughout the Merrimack Valley with be working together under the direction of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission (MVPC) to develop and finalize plans that will help each community to develop Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plans for individual communities and the valley. Fifteen communities from Amesbury to Rowley and from Lawrence to Newburyport will participate. The MVPC was awarded a grant from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to develop this plan to comply with the federal Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000.
The Act requires every community to develop and implement a Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan to remain eligible for federal funding. The plan will address mitigation of naturally occurring hazards that we are all familiar with, including, but not limited to: wind storms, geologic hazards, floods, hurricanes, blizzards and fires. The Pre-Disaster Mitigation Plan focuses only on naturally occurring hazards and does not deal with threats such as terrorism.
The plan will include an inventory of cri-tical facilities within each community, a base map of areas within the Merrimack Valley that are affected by natural hazards and a vulnerability assessment for the region and for each community.
Mr. Alan Macintosh will head the effort as project manager and Mr. Jerrard Whitten, from the MVPC, will be the GIS Manager. I will work with Mayor Sullivan, the Fire Department, DPW, the Police Department and other appropriate city officials to create the plan for Lawrence and coordinate this with other communities under the direction of the MVPC. As we move forward in this project, I will update the planning process here, at City Council, and at various neighborhood meetings.
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