Merrimack River District

In the Fall of 2020, the City of Amesbury began exploring the creation of a Smart Growth Overlay District in Amesbury's east gateway, located at the junction of Elm Street and Route 150. We engaged the neighborhood and community at-large in a 6-month conversation about opportunities and challenges of creating a Smart Growth District in this area, and one of the concerns was: has the City looked comprehensively at how a new Smart Growth District in this location would impact/benefit the City? Did we assess the comprehensive impacts of this new proposed District, along with the other developments planned and/or approved for the East End Neighborhood? The answer was: not yet, but we will! The City took this feedback to heart and applied for a Community Planning Grant from the Department of Housing and Community Development in the summer of 2021. We were awarded funds in October 2021. 

We are taking a much larger look at this proposed Smart Growth District by expanding the area to the Merrimack River District (see map). In addition to the potential Smart Growth District, this District has several proposed or approved projects:

  1. The Golden Triangle, a 135-acre site right off of 1-95.  
  2. Former Larry’s Marina, a 2-acre site on the Merrimack River that is the focus of a potential redevelopment project (no formal application). 
  3. Bailey’s Pond, a 124-unit subdivision located off of Pond View Road.
  4. Former Trader Alan's Truck Stop, a 6.77-acre, City-owned, brownfield site located at 21 Pond View Road, right off of I-495. 

Our question is: How can we balance all of these projects with economic development, environmental protection, and vitality? 

This project, from February through June 2022, will use scenario planning to explore the land use, mobility, design and conservation options that will create vibrant gateways into Amesbury and help the Merrimack River District embrace smart and sustainable land uses. Working with Dodson and Flinker, Barrett Group, and BETA, this project will include collaborating with landowners and residents in the District to map out the large developments in Amesbury that are existing, approved or planned and identifying the important assets and challenges. This community input will help us develop criteria which can be used to analyze the impacts of a mix of land uses, transportation modes, building design/density, and open spaces. The final result for this project will be a menu of potential development options in the various areas of the District, which is accompanied by a tool that measures the impacts and benefits.  

The final Merrimack River District Report has been published! You can find a high and low resolution version in the District Resources section below. 

Merrimack River District
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Working Group Members

To manage this process, the City created a Merrimack River District Working Group, comprised of stakeholders in the District and City-wide. We will share information regularly that result from those group discussions. The following 14 people represent residents, landowners, businesses, City Boards and organizations:

  • Tracey Chalifour, Coastal Trails Coalition, Resident of District
  • Carol Finn, Resident of District
  • Ann Ferguson, Amesbury Improvement Association and Resident
  • Jon Hickok, City Councilor and Resident of District
  • Bob Labadini, Deacon of Union Congregational Church and Resident of District
  • Alex Loth, Minco Development, Landowner in District
  • Joel Nice, Planning Board Members and Resident of Amesbury
  • Sally Nutt, Member of Union Congregational Church and Resident of District
  • Nina Regan, Landowner in District
  • Christine Remus, Resident of District
  • Cory Riley, Natural Resources Professional and Resident of Amesbury
  • Linda Rodier, Resident of District
  • Herb Sears, Landowner in District
  • Peter Suorsa, Landowner in District and Resident of Amesbury

Steering Committee Members

  • Kassandra Gove, Mayor 
  • Nipun Jain, Director of Planning

District Resources 

Community Engagement for the Merrimack River District

Community Survey

The City of Amesbury is designing a framework to evaluate the potential challenges and benefits of future development. The City conducted a survey to ask Amesbury residents about what they see as the community’s needs and opportunities, and what they think is most important to consider as the City continues to grow. The survey closed on May 13th. The results of the survey can be found here.

Community Planning Forums

The first round of Community Planning Forums were held on April 8th and 9th at the High School. We had about 40 participants over the two day period engaging in small group discussions and working with planners and designers on developing scenarios for the future of the Merrimack River District. 

The final Community Forum for the Merrimack River District Project was on Wednesday, June 22nd at 6pm. We presented the scenarios that the consultants created based on the community's feedback during the April workshops and in the survey (see above for results). The presentation from the June 22nd virtual Forum can be found under District Resources.