Facts about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

Facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD)

  • Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District  (LHD) consists of High Street and downtown Newburyport from Winter to Federal Street. (It just includes those areas.  It does not include Plum Island.)  For a map of the proposed LHD press here.
  • The purpose of the proposed LHD is to protect and preserve distinctive historic characteristics in the proposed area.
  • High Street and downtown are vital to cultural and economic the wellbeing of the city.
  • There is no longer protection for downtown Newburyport. The Urban Renewal Plan for Downtown Newburyport expired in 2005.
  • High Street was almost destroyed by MassHighway in 1999. The LHD provides protection to the roadway so that would never happen again.
  • The LHD strives to create a balance between protection of our historic heritage and homeowner’s rights.
  • The creation of an LHD is an ongoing process that continues to incorporate public feedback.
  • The LHD deals with architecture that is only visible from the public way.
  • The LHD only applies to architecture built before 1930.
  • The LHD does not affect ordinary maintenance and repairs, landscaping, sidewalks, terraces, roofing material, shutters, shutter hardware, gutters, storm doors, storm windows, exterior lights, driveways, and minor details such as paint color (for all all of the outside of the building, including doors and trim).
  • The LHD does not affect the interior of a building, and by state law can never affect the interior of a building.
  • By Massachusetts state law, the LHD can not be voluntary and home owners cannot “opt-out.”
  • Fines: The Planning Board, the Building Inspector and the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) all have the ability to use fines, but they do not and never have levied fines.  Fines are in municipal law as a last resort.  If they did not exist, a developer could come into town and say, “I’ll do anything I want,” and there would be no legal tool to stop them.  The same criterion would apply to the proposed LHD.
  • By state law the only tool available to prevent demolition of historic homes is a LHD.  Zoning laws cannot solve this issue.
  • The LHD will be voted on by the Newburyport City Council, and needs a super majority of the Newburyport City Council votes, 8 out of 11 councilors.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD requires the creation of a commission to oversee the LHD, that is made up only of Newburyport residents.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD ordinance cannot be changed without a super majority of the Newburyport City Council Vote, 8 out of 11 councilors.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD cannot be expanded except by a very long and tedious process,  just like the one that Newburyport has been going through for the last 4+ years.
Proposed  LHD Map
Proposed LHD Map