LHD and Me

There is a proposal to create a local historic district in Newburyport. If approved by a super-majority of city council (8 of 11 councilors), the proposal will become law and the second LHD will be ordained.

The first LHD was ordained in October 2007 and protects Fruit Street. Look at chapter 16 in our code of ordinances. This new proposal is for some 800 homes and businesses covering a much larger swath of downtown and peripheral areas.

The city’s local historic district study committee has convened many meetings about this second district. But only recently, as the proposal nears finality, has a line been drawn between residents favoring it and those opposed. Whenever such controversies occur, people email me.

A proponent passionately writes:

The architectural heritage of our city, is unique and irreplaceable, and deserves to be preserved both for the benefit of residents and the country at large. It is a historic gem, it is the city’s heritage and It should be protected. I am confident that the committee working on the LHD proposal has been open and reasonable in listening to and weighing city residents’ concerns and that the final guidelines will not create an undue burden on property owners in the district.

The passion is equivalent from an opponent:

Although it may have good intentions, I do not feel it is needed and is a bit of overkill to protect the history and charm of our wonderful city of Newburyport. Most citizens of our city realize the value of maintaining their homes in the spirit preserving historical architectural features etc. There is not a need for another layer of approval to restore a home.

Pressed for a stance during the at-large councilor debates last fall, I wrote that I supported the LHD proposal — and I noted in subsequent interviews that a proposal is just that and has the ability to change. Change has already occurred with the study committee adding language about protecting trees and rights of way, not only the home. I have mixed feelings about these amendments and I’ll argue those points whenever it reaches the council.

At age 17 I served in a volunteer capacity on a municipal subcommittee charged with identifying whether my town should sell a historical school building or if we could reuse it, and if so, for some other purpose. I sat on this board for about a year and historical preservation was ingrained into me. It’s something I believe in.

I also believe that the neighborhood you move into is as important, if not more important, than the actual structure you decide to live inside. A local historic district protects that neighborhood. That’s its primary intent, hence a historic district and not a historic home. While you as a property owner may be conscientious, who’s to say your neighbor is too? The LHD protects your neighbors’ houses so that your property values increase.

I am inquiring into the viability of the city offering tax freezes to property owners when/if exterior rehabilitation is conducted on a home in the LHD, considering the cost of rehab materials may be more costly. But that’s something, even if not approved immediately, can be amended to the law afterwards.

Please continue emailing me your thoughts on LHD creation. Constituent relations are important to me. But if you need to know my perspective, I continue to support it.

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  1. […] I am on record supporting the proposed LHD. But I’ve also communicated with residents opposed that I am open to compromise, that I want to suggest edits to the proposal. Some opponents don’t want to compromise. But some do. I want to speak on behalf of those opponents supporting compromise. I will share my thoughts at committee meetings. […]

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