Newburyport, Infill Ordinance Light

Public Hearing on the Zoning Amendment to Section 9 or the “Infill Ordinance.”

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Newburyport City Hall, 7:30 PM
City Council Chambers


Property rights folks don’t get too upset, this is “Infill Ordinance Light.”

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.)

The wording on the present draft of this zoning amendment has been changed from a “Finding” to a “Special Permit for Non-Conformities.”

Got to admit that a “Special Permit for Non-Conformities” sounds pretty scary, but actually it’s not.

A “Special Permit for Non-Conformities” is a pretty low bar. Basically it’s a “Finding” that’s recorded. It is NOT a Variance and it is NOT a Special Permit (which was in the first version that got shot down by the Newburyport City Council) which are both much higher bars.

As I understand it, what this version does is to require that the homeowner or developer notify the neighbors and come in front of the City for a “chat” to try and make 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.

And frankly, good grief, if we as a City can’t even pass “Infill Ordinance Light,” what hope do we have of even remotely retaining our historic and neighborhood character. These are the qualities that make us so economically vibrant (even in bad economic times) and is why people want to come and live, work, visit and play in Newburyport, MA.

Mary Eaton