Several years ago the City of Newburyport established the “site plan review.” In today’s Daily News (January 26, 2006) Doug Locy, the Chairman of the Planning Board, explains that the purpose of the site plan review is to “protect the city’s historic characteristics.”
Mayor John Moak is quoted in the Daily News today as saying that he feels Nicholas Cracknell, the Planning Director for Newburyport, is “forcing ‘too much personal taste’ on developers” and would like to create a new board to take over the reviewing process.
Jonathan Woodman, a Newburyport architect, is also quoted. Mr. Woodman has become an extremely controversial figure, having taken on the project of expanding the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank. This project has entailed the demolition of one of Newburyport’s historic downtown buildings, One Temple Street. This has been felt by many to set a dangerous precedent, seeing that almost none of downtown Newburyport is protected from similar destruction (see earlier post.)
Mr. Woodman has also been criticized for creating a structure that is out of keeping with Newburyport’s historic character. Anger over the project has become so heated at points that the outspoken editor of The Undertoad, Tom Ryan, has gone so far as to call the design a “goiter.”
In the article Jonathan Woodman is quoted as saying, “sections of the site plan review law are stifling design” and that “the design review process should look at making things better, not making them conform.”
It appears to me that yes forming a review board is an excellent idea. But what seems to be the real issue is that Mr. Cracknell has ruffled many a feather in fighting to keep Newburyport’s historic character. Having sat through almost the entire site plan review of the Newburyport Five Cents Savings Bank, I would guess that a few of those ruffled feathers have been Mr. Woodman’s and quite likely the bank’s and portions of the business community itself, along with any number of developers.
It does not sound from the article in the Daily News that Mayor Moak has any real enthusiasm for keeping on Planning Director Nicholas Cracknell. One gets the feeling that an extra three-month trial (see earlier post) will most likely not change his mind. The City of Newburyport will loose a defender of historic preservation.
Mary Eaton, Newburyport