Newburyport, Infill Ordinance

The “Infill Ordinance” or the “Amendment to Section 9” of the Newburyport Zoning Code is on the agenda for tonight’s Newburyport City Council Meeting.

The Newburyport Planning Board is asking for a joint Public Hearing with the Newburyport City Council

Last year, a previous version of this amendment to the zoning code was turned down by the Newburyport City Council.

What’s the biggest change in this version (at least that I can make out)?

The first version required a “Special Permit.” This version requires a “Finding.”

Huge difference.

Basically if your average homeowner would like to build an addition or alteration that is bigger than 500 square feet for a “non-conforming” structure for either a one or two family home, they would need to come before the City for a “chat.”

(This version includes both one-family and two-family homes. The previous version only applied to two-family homes. This change came about at the request of members of the Newburyport City Council.)

A special permit, whether it is for the Newburyport Planning Board or the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is fairly stringent. Part of the requirement for both boards is that:

“The requested use is essential and/or desirable to the public convenience or welfare.”

One of my questions on the first version of this amendment to Section 9 was that if your average homeowner wanted to build, lets’ say a 600 square foot addition that included a bedroom and a very nice new kitchen, how would that be “essential or desirable to the public convenience or welfare?”

Well, frankly, it wouldn’t. It would be for the homeowner’s convenience and welfare. Under this version, that stringent requirement does not apply.

As I understand it, what this version does require is that the homeowner or developer come in front of the City for a chat to try and makes sure that whatever is going to be built is not only good for the homeowner, but is also in keeping with the local neighborhood character.

This works for me. And I hope it works for every member of the Newburyport City Council. In my book, that would be terrific.

Mary Eaton