Wow, there has been a lot of concern about the proposal that went in front of the Planning Board about a large infill project at 347 High Street.
The proposed infill project is a 2,800-3,200 square foot Greek Revival replica in front of a very historic Federal House. Apparently 347 High Street was one of the first Federal Houses on High Street (Possibly the first. I believe research is being done on that subject.)
The Newburyport Planning Board very intelligently decided not to give the applicant the go ahead. The Newburyport Planning Board felt that it would set a very bad precedent, building houses in front of existing houses on historic High Street.
As I said in an earlier post, since apparently a fair amount of effort has gone into the preliminary presentation, that it would not be unlikely to see this infill project at 347 High Street go before the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA.) One only hopes that the ZBA is as wise as the Newburyport Planning Board and also says “no.”
One of my concerns is that one of the members of the ZBA has recently sold their house at 325 High Street, thus enabling a 3 house infill project by Jim Mellett of Marlin Properties to take place. It would seem that this would be an enormous conflict of interest on the part of this ZBA member.
At the moment there is “open space” in front of 347 High (as well as on the other side of the historic colonial at 349 High Street.) The proposed dwelling would certainly impact both 349 and 343 High Street (which are both very close to the property line,) as it would the rest of this historic street.
There is also a very large street tree that would be impacted by a proposed driveway.
I know that two members of the Newburyport City Council who are on the Planning and Development Committee, Bruce Vogel and chair of that Committee, Tom Jones feel very strongly that this project should not take place. I cannot imagine that Councilor James Shanely, who is also on that committee, would not feel exactly the same way.
This particular proposal has hit a real nerve within the community of Newburyport. So much so, that it is reported that members of the neighborhood are investigating protecting at least part of the street by looking into forming a Local Historic District (LHD.)
This is music to my ears folks. Newburyport has fought having a Local Historic District for at least 50 years, feeling that it would impinge too greatly on people’s property rights.
But I cannot say it enough. The only sure way to protect the intrinsic character of historic Newburyport is a Local Historic District. (And we are one of the very few municipalities that do not to have a Local Historic District – they are the norm.)
The folks on Fruit Street are working on a Local Historic District for that street. I certainly hope that when that comes in front of the Newburyport City Council for a vote, that the Newburyport City Council will vote “yes.”
The eroding of the intrinsic character of Newburyport, Massachusetts has gone on for too long. I am always heartened when people are moved to take action.
Mary Eaton, Newburyport