What the “Say No to LHD” folks are saying about fines in the literature that is being mailed and handed out, is not true. If you do something in Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) that the LHD Commission (should the Newburyport City Council vote in favor of the LHD) might have some reservations about, you will not be fined $500 a day into bankruptcy.
This is what our Newburyport City Ordinance says about fines:
“If the notice of violation and order is not complied with promptly, the inspector of buildings shall institute the appropriate action or proceeding at law or in equity to prevent any unlawful action, use or condition and to restrain, correct or abate such violation. Penalties for violations may, upon conviction, be affixed in an amount not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300.00) for each offense. Each day, or portion of a day, that any violation is allowed to continue shall constitute a separate offense.”
That sounds pretty fierce and downright scary.
What the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) said at the informational meeting for Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), 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.
What was explained was that 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.
What was explained that evening is that the same criterion would apply to the Newburyport’s proposed LHD.