The literature that is being mailed, handed out by those who oppose Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) , the “Say No to LHD” folks, would have you believe that if you do something in the proposed LHD that the LHD Commission (should the Newburyport City Council vote in favor of the LHD) might have some reservations about, you will be fined $500 a day into bankruptcy.
I think this is what one could call “propaganda” because it is so ridiculously not true.
(Definition of propaganda: “Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” “The deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.”)
On Monday night at the LHD informational meeting the subject of fines was cleared up (at least for those who have an open mind, and for those who don’t think that the LHD is some sort of government conspiracy).
What the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) said, and I am paraphrasing here, is that the Planning Board, the Building Inspector and the ZBA all have the ability to use fines but they do NOT and never have levied fines.
Fines are there 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 LHD Study Committee is writing a city ordinance, a city law, which is not done lightly. (And the LHD Study Committee is not a “group” the way one of the leaders of the “Say No to LHD” keeps describing them.)
The drafting of a municipal law is a “process,” and is a “work in progress.”
And the LHD Study Committee is still clarifying the whole “fine” thing in the ordinance-law that is in the process of being written.
So no, contrary to the propaganda being distributed by the “Say No to LHD” folks, if you live in Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), you would not be fined daily into bankruptcy.
As was explained at the informational hearing on Monday night, the same criterion would apply to the proposed Newburyport LHD that applies to the Newburyport Planning Board and the Newburyport ZBA.