I miss Stephanie Chelf who used to be the Newburyport reporter for the Newburyport Daily News. Stephanie has gone on up the journalistic ladder.
There were at least 3 really good stories in Newburyport this week. Stephanie would have known what the three stories were. And she would have also known not only the issues involved, but also the players.
Stephanie really helped the Newburyport Political Blog by giving me so much to blog about. She was also really willing to go out there and get, for this small town, some fairly controversial quotes and cover your not so run of the mill journalistic stories.
One of the stories this week is 16 Eagle Street.
For me this is a heart breaker. On the one hand I am glad that people are becoming so passionate about the issue of infill. On the other hand it elicits such anger and hard feeling in Newburyport’s neighborhoods.
As I understand it, Jamie Pennington bought what he believed to be a deeded two family home. An 1850 dwelling with an apartment on the top floor. And there was enough land to “legally” build a large addition.
I’ve never talked to Mr. Pennington, but my guess would be that his thinking could have been something along the lines of, “great I can build another attached house, and I can make some money by either renting one of them, selling one or both and help myself and my family.”
If this was his thinking, he is hardly alone. Over the years, I will admit that I’ve had plenty of those thoughts myself. I’ll think, “Oh my goodness, maybe I could make this bedroom into a studio apartment.” And then I’ll come back down to earth and think, “No, Mary, not a good idea.”
I can’t quite remember when infill started to come to people’s attention in such a passionate way, but I would imagine that back when Mr. Pennington bought his home, it was not the issue that it is now.
As I understand it a foundation is poured and part of the back of the house is demolished.
Understandably the neighbors were alarmed that a large addition was going up in their neighborhood. Just like neighbors and residents all over town.
And as I understand it, what the neighbors found out was that the apartment had a building permit, but never had a “variance” so that the apartment was not (I don’t know what the legal term is) “lawful” even though on paper the property was a deeded 2 family. And apparently the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals has agreed with them.
What an incredible mess.
And this is one of the many reasons why the Newburyport City Council so desperately needs to pass the “Infill Ordinance” or the Amendment to Section 9. The zoning amendment not only would help protect local neighborhood character, but it would also greatly clarify things so that neighbors would have a chance of living more peacefully together.