The “No LHD” Folks and Distortion of the Facts

One of the real problems I have with the “Say No to LHD” folks is not only presenting wrong information as the truth (see previous post), but also the weird distortion of the facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).  The point of the misinformation and distortion of the facts appears to be 1) to scare folks into either being terrified that this “socialist” agenda, or 2) just scaring them in general with distorted and false information.  And that distorted information gets out there, and is perceived by good and well intentioned folks as fact.

I wish I was making this up.

The proposed Newburyport LHD is based on state law. Each state differs in their laws about a LHD.  Our state law is called Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40C, which can be read here.  The draft of the proposed LHD ordinance references Chapter 40C.

Folks have emailed me and I have read many “alternatives” to having a LHD.  Have the guidelines under the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the Building Inspector to prevent another layer of government.  Have a voluntary LHD the way they do in Rhode Island.

Our state law is very specific.  And a LHD cannot be voluntary (it maybe in other states, but not in our state).   By law, the Zoning Board, Planning Board and the Building Inspector do not have a say over what a LHD in our state would cover.

And if the LHD passes, by state law, the ordinance can only be amended by a super majority of the Newburyport City Council, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  If the city wanted to expand the LHD, it would have to go through what it went through to create the proposed LHD. There would be a new investigation,  the new area would be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, there would be a public hearing and it would need to be approved by the council by a super majority, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  This is laid out in Section 3 of our state law, which can be read here.

State law requires a LHD Commission, and that is laid out in Section 4 of Mass General Law 40C which can be read here.

Also their claim that only 2 city residents will be on the LHD Commission is false.  Our own Newburyport City law 2-62 states very clearly:

“Persons appointed to City of Newburyport boards, committees, commissions and authorities that are established by ordinance shall be residents of the City of Newburyport. This shall pertain to new appointments made after the date of approval of this section.”

The creation of the proposed Newburyport LHD is also a work in progress.  As an example, this is from the Newburyport Daily News, February 13, 2012, by Dyke Hendrickson.

“The Local Historic District Study Committee has voted to avoid the potential of expensive roofing bills by deleting a measure in its draft that would have required slate roofs to be replaced by slate roofs on structures within the proposed historic district.

The committee met Thursday night, and in discussing feedback it has received, it was stated that homeowners have expressed concern about a proposed requirement stating that a building owner had to replace slate with slate.

In mulling the matter, co-chair Doug Locy called on his own experience to say that a slate roof could cost $110,000, while a roof of another (appropriate) material could cost about $10,000…

The five-member study committee agreed to delete “slate” from its final report, and thus the use of asphalt shingling or other surfaces will be included in the proposed ordinance the committee sends to the City Council in late spring.”

The revised guidelines for the proposed Newburyport LHD will be put up on the City’s website after March 1st.  And the proposed 2nd draft of the LHD has not yet had a Public Hearing, or gone before the Newburyport City Council, where it will most, if not very likely, if not definitely be further amended.