New FAQ about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

I just received this via email.  This is the new, updated  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) by the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Study Committee.  I imagine that the FAQ are in response to much of the confusion and misinformation that is out there about Newburyport’s prosed LHD.

Frequently Asked Questions  NEW

The Study Committee has revised the proposed ordinance and guidelines in response to public input. The process of creating an LHD that is fair to property owners and protective of the city’s historic architecture continues; please send questions and comments to

Newburyport seems to have gotten along fine without an LHD; why have one now?

Appearances can be deceiving. In recent years there have been numerous tear downs, destructive repairs, and incompatible additions to historic buildings. Critically, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority no longer oversees the downtown. The LHD would help stop harmful practices, encourage sympathetic renovations and new construction, and attract new property owners respectful of Newburyport’s historic character.

I take good care of my home and wouldn’t sell to anyone who would not; why is that not sufficient?

Sellers ordinarily cannot control what is done to their properties. And annual residential turnover in Newburyport is a high 15% despite the recession.

Would I have to go before the LHD Commission every time I wanted to do something to my house? And have to hire architects and lawyers?

No. Firstly, review applies only to exterior work viewable from the street on structures built before 1930. Secondly, whatever presently exists would be grandfathered in, so like may be replaced with like. Thirdly, most common work is excluded from review (see next question). Review would only be triggered if you already had to apply for a regular building permit and the work was not excluded by the preceding.

Where review is required, applicants are encouraged to have a preliminary working session with the Commission. You would not have to have professional help unless you wanted it.

What work is excluded from review?

A long list including ordinary maintenance and repair, landscaping, storm and screen windows and doors, exterior painting, roofing, gutters, and shutters (see section 4 of the ordinance).

How would windows be treated?

The guidelines emphasize repairing damaged windows, and windows in good repair give good energy efficiency with storms. However, replacement windows would be allowed if they matched the historic windows, and many such replacements are available.

Could the Commission change the ordinance if it wanted to? And could the LHD be expanded?

Only with the same public review and two-thirds vote of the City Council that the proposed ordinance and guidelines themselves have required.

How would an LHD affect my taxes and the value of my house?

By law, there can be no effect at all on your real estate taxes; and many studies have shown that LHDs help maintain property values.

Who would be on the Commission?

Only City residents can be; and the ordinance requires that at least 3 of the 5 members also be residents of the district itself. The ordinance also recommends that membership include architects, realtors, historic preservationists, and business owners. The aim is a supportive Commission with useful expertise and broad community oversight.

The Newburyport Local Historic District Study Committee’s website can be found here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Guidelines (3/5/2012) press here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Ordinance (3/5/2012) press here.