2015-06-18 / Front Page

City Planner is Hired

By Tom Walsh

After nearly a year without a permanent city planner, officials announced on Wednesday, June 17, the hiring of Christine A. O’Grady, with more than 20 years of experience, as Newport’s new city planner.

O’Grady, who has worked as a senior planner with CDR Maguire of Providence for more than two decades, will begin work in Newport on Monday, July 13.

O’Grady’s appointment was announced with a late afternoon press release. The new planner was not available for interviews. Neither were city officials.

Besides her professional experience, O’Grady comes to her new position with experience as a member of the Barrington, R.I., Planning Board. Her professional experience has included environmental, design, transportation, water systems, economic and social planning for both public and private sectors.

Among the projects she has worked on is the Providence IWay Bridge, where she crafted the I-195 environmental impact statement. She is also well-versed in transportation planning, water main replacement and rehabilitation projects and land-use planning. She has also helped author numerous reports such as comprehensive plans, feasibility studies, master plans, development regulations and “countless environmental, water, wastewater and transportation permits in Massachusetts and Rhode Island."

She has worked on major planning projects in New York and New Jersey and developed a program management system for the Quonset Development Corp.

O’Grady has a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture and a master’s degree in community planning and holds professional accreditation from the American Institute of Certified Planners.'

One of O'Grady's first tasks is likely to involve updating the city's Comprehensive Land Use Plan, due to the state by next June.

Her appointment comes after a period of unrest surrounding the Newport planner’s position. Last summer Newport’s former City Planner Melissa Stolhammer relinquished her duties under circumstances that have still never been explained. Asked last October about Stolhammer’s departure, then-mayor and Council Chair Henry F. Winthrop said, “I know that she’s left. I don’t know when and I don’t know why. It’s up to the city manager to manage city personnel.”

At the time, interim City Manager Joseph Nicholson said, “she no longer works for the city. I can’t comment further on that.”

Stolhammer was succeeded on an interim basis by Newport Preservation Planner Matthew Weintraub, who also left his job in October. Guy Weston, Newport’s zoning officer, has most recently served as the city’s interim city planner.

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