Confusion abounds when it comes to Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).
One of the things that folks are confused about is how the LHD could be changed if it should pass.
Local Historic Districts differ from state to state. Our state LHD state law is called General Law Chapter 40C, the Historic Districts Act. It informs our local LHD law, ordinance, if it should pass, and is often referred to in the draft ordinance of Newburyport’s proposed LHD.
The LHD ordinance or municipal law is guided by state law just the way our city planning and zoning laws are.
The proposed ordinance could not be changed without a super majority of the Newburyport City Council, 8 out of 11 votes. That is in State General Law, Chapter 40C, Section 3.
The proposed LHD ordinance includes what is not included or what is exempt, things like paint color, shutters, roofing material, ordinary maintenance and repairs, landscaping, storm windows, storm doors, gutters, shutter hardware, driveways, terraces.
The draft guidelines help clarify and give guidance to a homeowner who would like to make changes to the exterior of their home, seen from the public way, on items that are not exempt.
What was said at the first informational meeting was that most LHDs don’t start with guidelines, that Newburyport was an exception and should be applauded for trying to make things as clear as possible.
At the moment (and the creation of a city law is a process) the guidelines can be changed with a public hearing (Section 6.3). I asked the LHD Study Committee (they can be contacted at email@example.com), and what I was told is that there is only one location in Massachusetts where the guidelines are changed by a super majority vote.
If the Newburyport City Council choses (it will reach the City Council after the Public Hearing), it can change Section 6.3 in the LHD draft ordinance, so that any changes to the guidelines would also require a super majority vote in the Newburyport City Council, 8 out of 11 votes.
The LHD state law, Chapter 40C can be read here.