Newburyport, Design Review Board

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I hear floating around and that is “allegedly” the conflict with many architects in Newburyport and Newburyport’s Planning Director, Nick Cracknell. What I hear floating in the wind, is that when it comes to design review that there are many folks who feel that nothing can get by without Nick Cracknell’s approval and that Nick Cracknell in the area of design review, is a “dictator.”

Again no fact checking here. This is a blog, the editor (me) doesn’t “fact check” and none of this particular design review conflict stuff has been in any of the local periodical as of yet that I know of.

Now Nick Cracknell is using the Newburyport Master Plan as the guideline. And a very quick read through, by no means thorough, the emphasis appears to be keeping the historic quality and integrity of Newburyport, Massachusetts. I can’t find in my cursory reading anywhere where it says that the emphasis is a combination of historic integrity combined with contemporary culture (which might apply to someplace like Stanford Connecticut or my hometown of New York City.) And I am continually amazed at the at the diversity of viewpoints that assembled this document, including such folks as Jonathan Woodman, former mayor Byron Matthews and current mayor John Moak.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about Inn Street, which is in my mind is a marvelous weaving together of the old and the new. The “brick court yard” (I don’t know what else to call it) with it’s contemporary sculpture, to me makes the whole thing visually “pop.” (Sorry folks that’s the artist in me.)

And I’ve always thought of Jonathan Woodman as one of the original historic preservationist, because he was one of the first people to take a chance and restore one of the downtown buildings, which at the time was a very risky venture, very risky indeed. And for this, we all owe him big time.

Now, I grew up in New York City, and I love contemporary architecture, so I am very sympathetic to architects who have a modern/contemporary background and would like to do something more than historic replications, and find that notion artistically stifling.

Jim Roy in the Newburyport Current, keeps alluding to a design review board made up of all architects (I haven’t asked Mr. Roy where he keeps getting this one from, again here we go with the no “fact checking” thing), which I agree would be a deadly idea.

I like Doug Locy’s (Chairman of the Newburyport Planning Board) proposal in the Letter to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News, February 16, 2006, of “a proposed five-member board that would l consist of a registered architect, a landscape architect, a developer, a member of the Historical Commission and a member of either the Planning Board or ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals).” (Personally, I’d throw in the Planning Director, but that’s just me.)

And I’m guessing that this board would review every applicable project. (And from what I hear in the wind, there is by no means a consensus on this approach–again, no “fact checking” here.) This would at least assure of some give and take and hopefully a respectful coming together of ideas on how, from a design point of view, Newburyport, Massachusetts could proceed.

And from what I understand, the Newburyport Planning Board and the Newburyport Planning Office have been advocating for a design review board along this line for sometime. And from what I hear floating around in the wind, the conflict is how it would be constructed, who would make up the design review board and how exactly it would be implemented. Civics is never an easy thing.

Mary Eaton, Newburyport