June 25, 2007
City Council President Leo Pimental and
Honorable Members of the City Council
City of New Bedford
133 William Street
New Bedford, MA 02740
Dear Council President Pimental and Honorable Members:
Enclosed please find my veto of the City Council vote on June 14, 2007 permitting the demolition of 194 Riverside Avenue, a/k/a The Cliftex Mills Complex owned by Mr. Edward Fitzsimmons of 22 Stratford Drive, No. Dartmouth, MA. The mill building was built in 1903 and has been found by the New Bedford Historic Commission to be of historic significance. For this reason, the Commission recommended that the mill not be demolished. It appears from the Council papers that the City Council ignored this recommendation from the Historic Commission and granted Mr. Fitzsimmons’ demolition request, citing that “the building is exceptionally large and is not easily converted into condos, lots of wasted space and money.”
The reason I have vetoed this Council action is quite simple. I do not believe there was an appropriate amount of discussion or deliberation by the Council to determine whether there is the justification or necessity for the demolition of this building. It is my understanding that the building is in reasonable condition. I also believe that the building has many uses for this area of the City, which will provide economic development opportunities for our residents in the way of jobs, and ancillary economic benefits, as well as to provide additional tax revenue for our City. Further, I do not believe this is a decision that should be made without a complete analysis of all the circumstances behind the demolition request.
As you know, the mill is adjacent to two other mill buildings which have been recently renovated, the Whaler’s Cove Development and the Whaler’s Place Development. Both of these projects have provided our residents with employment opportunities, and will generate considerable tax revenue for the City. It is my understanding that currently there are developers interested in discussing with Mr. Fitzsimmons similar projects for his property as well.
To allow the mill to be demolished so that the vacant land can serve as a “construction or nursery storage lot,” or to have “storage lockers” placed on it, certainly is not the best use of this property and will exacerbate the blight that already exists in this area of the City.
I propose that Mr. Fitzsimmons and the New Bedford Economic Development Council confer on finding either a buyer or an investor who can work with Mr. Fitzsimmons to renovate this building in an appropriate 21st Century manner.
It is clear that not every mill in New Bedford will be redeveloped or saved. However, before such a decision can be made, all options for redevelopment should be explored thoroughly and every opportunity should be made to capitalize on New Bedford’s attributes, which are our historic properties. It is not prudent, and it is short-sighted, to attempt to find a quick remedy for an individual who may not have a comprehensive overview on the future vision or development plans for this section of the City, or who may be looking to circumvent planning and zoning processes.
I look forward to working with Mr. Fitzsimmons, the New Bedford Economic Development Council and the City Council to find a mutually agreeable, positive solution to Mr. Fitzsimmons’ concerns.
As Mayor of the City of New Bedford, I request that the City Council sustain this veto of the City Council’s permission to allow for the demolition of one of New Bedford’s historic properties.
Scott W. Lang