Bizarre Process Surrounds New Bedford Water Park [OPINION]
The water park in the South End of New Bedford appeared magically on the ocean last month. We are now learning about the magical process that got it up so fast.
On the evening of Tuesday, July 2, the New Bedford Conservation Commission held a meeting at the Brooklawn Park Warming House in the North End. On the agenda was the new water park in the South End. There were about 25 people there and nearly all of them, including Ward 6 City Councilor Joseph Lopes, were from the South End.
Former Chairman of the New Bedford Board of Appeals and longtime South End resident Barry Sylvia presented a detailed petition signed by the neighbors of the water park to the commission. Mr. Sylvia explained to the board he wasn't an attorney but he spoke with the clarity and knowledge of someone who has spent years in the courtroom. And his petition certainly reads like a well-prepared legal document.
Craig Dixon, the chair of the Commission, explained to the crowded room that his board was never notified of the water park until it was in the water. Mary Rapoza, the director of the City's Parks, Recreation, and Beaches Department told me after the meeting that she "didn't realize the project needed approval" from the Conservation Commission and blamed herself for the oversight.
The chairman of the CC repeatedly stated that it was his understanding that the water park, which is a partnership between the City and the Texas company Altitude H2O, would not open until the CC had signed off on the project. The residents' petition asks for a study to be done on the environmental impact of the project and the chairman repeatedly mentioned his board needed a study to be done as well. He predicted the study would take at least a few weeks to complete.
Also in attendance was a representative of the United States Army Corps of Engineers. She told me after the meeting there was a permit application pending for the project at her agency. They ignored the federal regulations and erected the water park on the ocean. Could you get away with that?
South End City Councilor Joe Lopes told the crowd he only learned of the project last month. Nobody in city government informed the councilor from that part of the city of the project they were working on until it was a done deal, apparently.
So here is the magic: the Texas company and the City entered into a business deal and ignored the major rules and regulations that everybody else has to follow. Is New Bedford becoming a bastion of libertarian free enterprise or is the local government giving preferential and possibly illegal assistance to its business partner?
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.