Zoning Overlay NOT a Local Historic District (LHD)

Unfortunately the Newburyport Daily News has repeatedly reported that a Local Historic District (LHD) is being proposed.  This is NOT the case, there is NO LHD period.  I am extremely disappointed in our paper of record.  I feel that it is the paper’s responsibility to inform and educate people, not to scare them. To me saying that this proposal is a LHD is like shouting “Fire” in a crowded room, when there is no fire, for me this is unfortunate and irresponsible journalism.  I expect more from the Newburyport Daily News.

Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron has clarified what is being proposed in the comment section of the latest Newburyport Daily News article on the subject.  Here it is:

Several clarifications to this reporting are necessary:

First of all this is not a single proposal by Councillor (Jared) Eigerman. He has submitted three separate zoning ordinance changes. Although they can be seen as related, they are each separate.

The three are:

1) a proposal establishing an Interim Downtown Overlay District is zoning that would preserve our historic downtown. Currently there are zero protections since the deed restrictions related to the HUD rehab of downtown which were in effect from 1971-2005 have lapsed. The Planning Board which oversees downtown site plan review would be the Special Permit Granting Authority.

Please note that Councillor Eigerman’s submitted change for downtown zoning is not a local historic district. A local historic district is created under Massachusetts Gen. Laws Chapter 40 C. What is proposed is a zoning change, not a local historic district, and is covered by Massachusetts Gen. Laws Chapter 40A. In this proposal, the local Historic Commission is not involved.

2) a proposal establishing an Interim Demolition Control Overlay District is zoning which would establish protections regarding teardowns in the Federal Newburyport Historic District established in 1984. The ZBA would be the Special Permit Granting Authority in these cases.

3 ) a proposal to amend our off-street parking regulations so that developers who are making a use change or building a new development and want to use public parking to meet their parking requirements will have to pay for it.

Please note that the Council Planning and Development Committee and Committee of the Whole did not “balk” at approving these zoning changes last night. The process is that these zoning changes will go to a Joint Public Hearing of the Planning Board and the Council’s Planning and Development Committee, an opportunity for the public to give input. Any zoning change in Newburyport must go through this process before the City Council takes action. That meeting has been advertised in the Daily News and will occur on Wednesday, February 19 at 7 PM at City Hall.

More details are here:

Councillor Ed Cameron”

Editor’s Note:  This is a comment  from John Macone, the Editor of the Newburyport Daily News, in the comment sections in the latest article in the Newburyport Daily News.  I appreciate it a lot.

“ Thank you for your comments. I agree with commenters who have said this is not a true local historic district proposal, as set down in state law. However, it is also clear that these zoning amendments seek to achieve some of the same protections/property restrictions that the LHD contained.

I’ve changed the headline to better reflect the intent of Councilor Eigerman’s proposals. Also, we will be following up shortly with a comprehensive explanation of the similarities and differences between these proposals and the LHD proposal.
John Macone, editor”

The headline was changed to: “Historic Protections Proposed for Downtown.”

A Really Good Compromise on Newburyport’s LHD

This sounds like a really good compromise on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) sponsored on Monday night by Newburyport City Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin. Excellent work!!  I hope it is one that the Newburyport City Councilors see as a “win-win” alternative.

The proposals address what Councilor Ives called the “most egregious” situations affecting our historic assets in the city of Newburyport, i.e. demolition, as well as protecting downtown Newburyport, the restoration of which is responsible for the revitalization of a once dying city.

A very well written article in the Newburyport Daily News about the the proposals sponsored by Councilors Katy Ives and Bob Cronin can be read here.

Newburyport LHD Political Reality

I am now going to piss off Newburyport preservationists!  Ooops!

The final report of the Newburyport LHD Study Committee (LHD = Local Historic District) is absurdly fair.  The five members did backflips to accommodate feedback from the community and from the Newburyport City Councilors. Backflips, cartwheels, you name it, right from the get go. And despite all of that, on an up and down vote it’s not going to fly. That’s just the existing political reality.

The leading member of the “Say No to LHD” group, its heart and soul, who got up in the first informational meeting a year a go, disrupting the entire meeting and storming out, vowing to stop the LHD, has done a remarkable job. It’s definitely a “Wow.” It appears that the end most certainly justified the means. Trashing people’s reputations and character, personal attacks, threats of law suits (most recently in a comment in the Daily News), presenting information early last winter (good tactic starting early) that was and is simply not true, has worked. Congratulations.

The final version of the LHD ordinance has finally gone to the Newburyport City Council, a meeting will take place this Thursday, October 25, 2012, Newburyport City Hall at 7PM.

As I see it, the political realities. (The boundaries of the proposed LHD are High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport from Winter Street to Federal Street.)  Lob off the North End of High Street at the Kelly School, and put those folks out of their misery.

There is unanimous support along the South End of the “Ridge” to Willis Lane (which is roughly across the street from Fruit Street).  Shorten High Street from Willis Lane to the Kelly School, maybe include St Paul’s Church on the other side (but, good grief, don’t cross the street!).

And protect downtown Newburyport.  After all that HUD Federal money, please, does anyone dispute that the restoration of downtown Newburyport is the reason that Newburyport has become the thriving place that it is today?  Really, not to protect downtown, good grief.

When Governor Deval Patrick came for a visit at Cafe Di Siena (February 2010), I asked Newburyport City Councilor Tom O’Brien if he would vote for the Newburyport LHD, and his response (this was before all of the hullabaloo), “Of course Mary, there’s been too many tear downs.”  This statement was witnessed by Newburyport City Councilor Barry Connell, who with a wink and a smile by both Newburyport city councilors, pretended to write down this vote for the LHD by Councilor Tom O’Brien on the back of his hand.

So why not have have a “No Demolition” zone/overlay for the entire Newburyport Historic District, that would also include “interior demolition for exploratory purposes,” which, for example, lead to the unfortunate creation by a developer on Pine Street, for which the neighbors are suing the developer and the Newburyport Zoning Board of Appeals.

Can the Newburyport City Council come up with the equivalent of the “Wisdom of Solomon?”  Can they do it in one night?? And what will they say, now that they get the chance have to have a say.  It will be really fascinating to watch.

Citizens for Historic Newburyport to Take Down “Yes! LHD” Signs

This is a press release from Citizens for Historic Newburyport

Citizens for Historic Newburyport (CHN) thank Mayor Donna Holaday for speaking in support of a Local Historic District (LHD) at last night’s public hearing, and take to heart her appeal for all lawn signs and banners to be removed as the proposal moves to the Newburyport City Council.

LHD Yes! signs were made available by CHN last March at the request of residents upset by the appearance of signs installed earlier by opponents of historic district protections.  Within days of becoming available, more than 200 LHD YES! signs were displayed by residents throughout the city.

“We think we’ve made our point,” said Jared Eigerman on behalf of CHN. “Proponents of an LHD are steadfast in their support of sensible, mainstream legislation to protect Newburyport’s historic character. Our 11 City Councillors will now take up the issue, and people of all views can contact them directly and at hearings going forward. Lawn signs won’t aid those deliberations.”

CHN volunteers have already begun to remove LHD Yes! signs in a process which should be completed by the end of the weekend.

Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) Public Hearing

Public Hearing on the Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD),

Thursday June 21, 2012, at 7PM

Newburyport High School Auditorium (not City Hall)

This is the legally required hearing, the one where people, for, against and I’m not sure, get to make a statement about the LHD proposal.

There have been lots of changes to Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), and no it’s not “lipstick on a pig” the way some folks have described it.

The LHD Study Committee has listened to the community, and those who may be totally against anything, well, nothing would make them happy.  But, those who would like to find a “common ground” and are willing to compromise, boy or boy, the LHD Study Committee has listened to you!

For more information see previous post here.

Newburyport Daily News article can be read here.

You can also go to the City’s website for detailed information and updates here.

(And this was not decided by the election on June 5,  2012, that was the school projects and the Senior Center, all 3 projects passed.  The proposed LHD will be voted on by the Newburyport City Council.  After the public hearing, there are several legal steps the proposal will go through before it gets to the Newburyport City Council, and then it will go into “Committee” for deliberation, and then finally come out of  ”Committee” for a vote.  The proposed LHD ordinance needs at super majority vote, 8 out of the 11 Newburyport City Councilors to pass.)

Public Hearing on Newburyport’s Proposed Local Historic District (LHD) and Updated Information.

There will be a Public Hearing (this is the legally required one) on the Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD),Thursday June 21, 2012, at 7PM at the Newburyport High School Auditorium (not City Hall).

Below is the summary of the LHD Ordinance and the LHD Ordinance updates (3rd draft, now officially called the “Preliminary Report”).  Press images to enlarge.

LHD Ordinance Summary, page 1 (press image to enlarge)

LHD Ordinance Summary, page 1 (Press image to enlarge)

LHD Ordinance Summary, Page 1, Excluded Items and Reviewable Items  (Press image to enlarge)

LHD Ordinance Summary, page 2 (Press image to enlarge)

LHD Ordinance Summary, page 2 (Press image to enlarge)

LHD Ordinance Summary, Page 2, Additional Changes (Press image to enlarge)

The PDF version can be read here:  2012-public-hearing-lhd-ordinance-summary2

Or you can read the PDF version on the City of Newburyport’s website here.

Map of Newburyport's proposed Local Historic District (LHD), Press to enlarge

Map of Newburyport's proposed Local Historic District (LHD), Press to enlarge

This is the map of the proposed Newburyport Local Historic District (Press to enlarge). It can also be seen on the City’s website here.

Complete information on the updates on Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) can be read on the City’s website here.

Newburyport Anti-LHD Propaganda

The anti-LHD folks, we will scare you with lies.  (LHD = Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District) The impression that some of the anti-LHD folks would give you is that Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District is “Un-American.”  Really, I’m not kidding here.

“Another layer of Socialist bureaucracy, by a board of permit Komaczars…unAmerican.” I personally have received the moniker of “Nazi,” “Communist,” “Controlling zealot.” And these folks aren’t just throwing words around because they’ve had a bad day, unfortunately, they actually mean it.

And they will not compromise, period.  All on record.

So the anti-LHD poster below, over the top, unfortunately folks, no.  This is what they would like you to think about any version of Newburyport’s proposed LHD.

Sheer propaganda.

What the anti-LHD folks would like you to think about Newburyport's proposed LHD

What the anti-LHD folks would like you to think about Newburyport's proposed LHD

Propaganda often presents facts selectively (thus possibly lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or uses loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than rational response to the information presented. The desired result is a change of the attitude toward the subject in the target audience to further a political agenda.”

And what we’re doing is talking about protecting Newburyport’s historic assets here.  UnAmerican?  Oy Vey.

The Anti-LHD Folks, We will Scare you with Lies

This next number in the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) musical, “LHD-Bombshell,” (working title, see earlier posts), I think I’m going to call, “We will scare you, no matter what it takes.”

The scene opens with a row of 5 doors, set diagonally across the side of the stage.  The doors are all painted different colors.  And then, I think there would be 5 women all dressed the same, with the same wig, a piece of paper in hand.

Lights go up on the 5 doors and the 5 women march as if they are going door to door, and they line up in front of the five doors and knock, maybe pound  on the doors and then stand back.

And then in unison the 5 doors open.

The musical number begins. The five women launch into song, “We will scare you about LHD, no matter what it takes.”

The first one sings, “Your home insurance premiums will go through the roof with LHD.”

The second one sings, “A board of appointed experts (who don’t even live here) will control your life.”

The third one sings, “With LHD you will be lost in litigation.”

The fourth one sings, “You’ll never be able to do anything ever to your house.”

The fifth one sings, “The LHD gestapo will make you pay fines, fines, fines.”


Mark Twain

And on the other side of the stage, historic preservationists, sitting on the edge of the stage, others standing behind them sing, “It’s not true, it’s a lie, don’t believe them, don’t believe them, they are lying.”

And, I debated how to do this again, but I think I’m going with Mark Twain one more time, even though the quote is not attributed to him.  Everyone stops singing, lights go dim,  the Mark Twain character walks on stage, center stage, spotlight on him,  turns to the audience and says, not sings, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth” (the old proof by repeated assertion technique).

The stage goes dark.

And yes, the lies, misinformation, omission of the facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) is off the charts, and “proof by repeated  assertion,” what a way to lose Newburyport’s historic assets. Oy Vey.

Proof by assertion: “Proof by assertion, sometimes informally referred to as proof by repeated assertion, is a logical fallacy (a statement or an argument based on a false or invalid inference) in which a proposition is repeatedly restated regardless of contradiction. Sometimes this may be repeated until challenges dry up, at which point it is asserted as fact due to its not being contradicted (argumentum ad nauseam).”

You can read the entire explanation of what “proof by repeated assertion” is here.

The Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Musical, the Conspiracy Number

I’m thinking about a second number for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) musical, “LHD-Bombshell” (working title, see previous posts).

As I’ve said in earlier posts we have the John Birch Society mixed in with this wild LHD concoction. Again, you can’t make this stuff up.  So they’re not going to make an appearance in the musical?  Forget it. This is way too yummy.

So this is what I’m thinking, we have a guy decked out in a suit, gray hair slicked back, emerging center stage, the lights go dim to bright on him and he bursts out with the new musical number, “It’s a conspiracy.”  The lyrics go something like, “It’s a conspiracy, the LHD is a UN conspiracy. Historic preservation destroys the masses.”

And then we have the lady who’s on tape (see earlier post) who accused the Mayor of Newburyport and the LHD Study Committee of conspiracy (and if she was willing to say this on tape, she must believe it, right?) and we have her character emerge from behind the John Birch character, and burst into song with, “Yes, it’s a conspiracy, the LHD will ruin your life!”

And when I felt this whole weird LHD mess was because of the John Birch Society, and some of our more right wing conspiracy minded Republican friends, I thought to myself, “That’s unrealistic Mary, the Republicans in Newburyport are out numbered by the Democrats.” (Although there are Republicans that support Newburyport’s LHD, this is not just a Democrat liberal agenda thing by any means–it’s most definitely non-partisan.)

So we got to have the townies in this number.

In the musical “The Producers” where they have the musical number with the little old ladies and the walkers and everyone gasps at first. Well, I think I’m going to borrow from that one.  The townies, like it or not, are a dying breed here in Newburyport, forced out by gentrification and higher taxes, and they are pissed.

So I’m thinking we have one townie with a walker, and maybe 7 or 8  eventually emerge, and they burst out into song, “They (the Birchers) are so good at this, shall we let them just have their way.” The lyrics go something like, “They’ll get rid of these elitist blow-in carpetbaggers, the ridiculous architectural gestapo, taste-police!”  You get the idea.

Will the curtain go up on the musical "LHD-Bombshell" (working title).

Will the curtain go up on the musical "LHD-Bombshell" (working title).

And then at the end, the LHD Study Committee shuffles in as a group; they do a huddle, and then turn around and look at the Birchers and the townies in the walkers, and kneel down and huddle again. They are now center stage with the Birchers and the townies singing wildly on either side (clearly this is another ensemble number).

And then the singing stops, the lights are just on the LHD Study Committee huddle, and then one member stands up, dressed in a suit, looking dapper, spotlight just on him.

It goes something like this. The LHD Study Committee character, living here in Newburyport let’s say for well over 40 years (still considered a carpetbagger), “My…(pause)… We are in a shit storm… (pause)  And we are surrounded by crazy people.”

Lights out. The conspiracy musical number, “LHD-Bomshell” (working title).

Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) as a Musical

I’m liking this whole Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) mess as a musical (see previous post).

It could open with a Tom Salemi, one of Newburyport’s esteemed bloggers, character singing a solo, “Keep it Classy” (based on Tom’s great essay, “Take the Bagels, Leave the Petition,”on Newburyport’s LHD in Newburyport Today).

The stage is dark except for Tom’s character,  and then in the background, lights come up come slowly, we have two ladies in front of an establishment handing out fliers.  Their musical number is called “Fines, Fines, the LHD will Bankrupt You.”

And huddled at the front of the stage are preservationists (Newburyport preservationists tend in general to be meek and mild, “fierce” is not an adjective I would give to most Newburyport preservationist. “Fierce” goes good with some of the the anti-LHD folks, but not most preservationists, so that’s why they are huddling).  Lights come up slowly on them, and their musical number is, “It’s not True, It’s not True, It’s a Lie.” (Clearly this will be an ensemble piece.)

So Tom’s character is singing “Keep it Classy,”  while the two anti LHD women are singing “The LHD will Bankrupt You”, and the Newburyport preservationist are singing “It’s not True, It’s a Lie.”  And then everyone freezes, you know the way they do on stage.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

And what I’m picturing here is having someone dressed as Mark Twain, maybe with a sign hanging across their chest so the audience will get it, walks on stage, spot light on him, everyone else is dimmed out.  Doesn’t sing, just looks at the audience and says, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

The Mark Twain character walks off, and the Tom Salemi character sings one last  line of “Keep it Classy?” with a question mark in his voice, and then the lights fade out on all the characters. (Irony here, how elitist!!)

First possible scene of the new possible Broadway hit, “LHD-Bombshell,” (still a working title-the “Smash” thing again, see previous post).

Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Theater

My lovely young theater friends in NYC hate the TV program “Smash.” (I am secretly addicted to “Smash,” don’t tell them-truly they will be offended!!)

I suppose for them it’s a little like me watching Bravo’s “Next Great Artist,” The TV show reminds me of an advanced art class in college (not even grad school).  But, whatever quality the art may be, or how “unrealistic” the “reality” process may be, the press and the buzz probably helps whoever like crazy in their career, that’s just the nature of the biz, at least in my world.

So my NYC theater friends may be addicted to Bravo’s art stuff, who knows.

But thinking about “Smash,” I kept wondering, too bad someone couldn’t do something with all this Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) drama. Historic preservation may be boring (this is certainly the first time in the 31 years I’ve been here that it’s gotten this much attention!!), but my, we’ve got a lot of great characters, on both sides, and mucho drama. A LHD sensation!!

On the pro side we have Jerry Mullins who has outed himself recently as the P.Preservationist.  Jerry is dedicated. All that dedication makes some people just uncomfortable, positively squirm.  But through all of this LHD stuff, one of the great gifts is that I’ve gotten to know Jerry Mullins, and he’s my new bff.

On the anti side, we’ve got great characters.  We got one of the leaders, on tape, accusing the mayor and the Local Historic Study Committee of secretly meeting, and implying that they are engaged in illegal acts. You can’t make this stuff up. What a TV writer wouldn’t give for this!

We’ve got the John Birch Society messed up in this LHD stuff.  If you were a fiction writer, no one would believe you.  It’s yummy.

We’ve got a colorful Bossy Gillis character from Plum Island, telling people, on tape again, that LHD (like it’s some sort of terrible medical disease) will control you. The LHD has nothing to do with Plum Island.  It’s not on Plum Island.  Bossy Gillis is alive and well. How cool is this? Wowza!!

And then you have the somewhat deer stuck in the headlights Local Historic District Committee caught in the shit storm. It’s almost like you can hear them saying, “Say what??” (We’ve got a chorus number here in the making.)

And a newspaper person declaring really, really early on that the LHD is already lost in a messy defeat .. Honey, this is at least a 4 part play.  A little speedy on the getting to the conclusion thing, don’t you think??

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe

It’s a musical in the making.  We could make preservation history in Newburyport.  Can we ramp it up a little more?  Let’s really go at this full throttle. Let’s make history, let’s make this whole LHD mess worthy of a TV sitcom. I’ll take Broadway. Or it could be a TV drama (I’m not fussy here) about Newburyport’s LHD being a Broadway musical-just like “Smash,” only it’s about historic preservation not Marilyn Monroe. TV and Broadway. Is that fun or what? (And I bet my lovely young NYC theater friends would watch it!) Think casting, Newburyport Blog readers, think casting. (I’m sure everyone’s brains, for or against, are turning on the casting thing… now, don’t be mean.)

Fear and Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

I walk down the street and I see her sweeping in front of her Newburyport home.  I call her name, but not until I call out, “Hey beautiful, what you do’n,” does my friend turn her head. She’s one of the first people I ever knew when I moved here 31 years ago.

My neighbor, way back then, was a crusty old guy, and my friend was the sister of his very longtime girl friend, Ollie.

“What’s go’n on Mary?”

“I don’t know, what’s go’n on?”

My friend shrugs.

Me, “The LHD.”

“You for it or against it?”

“Advocating for it.”

“That’s the one where they want to tell you what to do with your home.”

Not the first time I’ve heard this by a long shot. “It’s mainly to prevent people from tearing down old homes.”

“That’s not such a bad thing, is it.”

“Nope,” I say “And no one’s going to come into anyone’s home. And no one is going to tell anyone what color they can paint their house.”

A little tension goes out of my friend’s shoulders, and we change the subject.

She tells me she turned 87, and we reminisce about her sister and my crusty old neighbor Jim.

Tomato Plant

Tomato Plant

Jim and Ollie used to have a huge garden (a real old time neighborhood garden) up on Johnson Street, on the land on the left as you’re walking down the hill towards the Nock Middle School.  All built up now.  I always wish that I had painted the portrait, or at least taken pictures to paint a portrait one day, of Ollie and Jim, sitting on the side of his old beat up dark green van, the side where the door slid open, in the middle of the huge vegetable field.  They were a great, almost iconic Newburyport pair.

Cutworm damage

Cutworm damage

So Jim knew a lot about gardening, and laughed and laughed at me when my little tomato plants in my tiny Newburyport backyard were felled by cutworms. (I’m from New York City, who knew from cut worms?).

And Jim came over and told me how to put a ring of paper around the stems of my little tomato plants, and push the the ring of paper down into the earth so the little critters couldn’t snip and destroy.

Jim's cutworm prevention recipe

Jim's cutworm prevention recipe

And Jim was as delighted as I was with my eventual tomato triumph.

“He used to laugh and laugh at you.”

“He sure did.”

“I don’t ever look at a tomato plant without thinking of you and Jim.”

We talked about her children and her grandchildren and folks that are no longer around.

And as I turned to go on with my walk, I winked at her.

“You’d give anybody a lift, Mary.”  And that made my day.

More LHD Confusion from the “Say No to LHD” Folks

More LHD confusion from the “Say No to LHD” folks.

I’ve heard from multiple sources that the “Say No to LHD” folks are passing out the  same flyer, handout, that was being passed out in January.

Maybe in January, maybe, one could have said that the “Say No to LHD” folks did not understand city and state law. But there has been plenty of time to learn, and clear up the misinformation and wrong information in the “Say No to LHD” literature.

The literature talks about the proposed LHD Commission, which would oversee Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

The claim is that this commission would be, “appointed by the Mayor and not all have to live in Newburyport.”

This is our Newburyport city law (ordinance).

Sec. 2-62. – Residency requirement.

Persons appointed to City of Newburyport boards, committees, commissions and authorities that are established by ordinance shall be residents of the City of Newburyport. This shall pertain to new appointments made after the date of approval of this section.

Another words, everyone on the proposed commission would live in Newburyport.

And like all Newburyport boards and commissions, the members of the proposed commission would be appointed by the Mayor and be passed by the Newburyport City Council.

Ask yourself, if this one very obvious and basic fact is not true in the “Say No to LHD” literature, how much of that literature could be trusted?

Confusion about Newburyport’s Proposed Local Historic District (LHD)

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 lhdsc@cityofnewburyport.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.

Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Meeting, March 26, 2012

LHD Study Committee Meeting, March 26, 2012, press to start video.

LHD Study Committee Meeting, March 26, 2012, press to start video.

Here is the video of the Local Historic District (LHD) Study Committee public meeting held on March, 26, 2012 at Newburyport City Hall.  The meeting was full of very helpful and constructive information, and the video is well worth watching.

The Local Historic District (LHD), Newburyport and Fines

moneyWhat the “Say No to LHD” folks are saying about fines in the literature that is being mailed and handed out, is not true. If you do something in Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) that the LHD Commission (should the Newburyport City Council vote in favor of the LHD) might have some reservations about, you will not be fined $500 a day into bankruptcy.

This is what our Newburyport City Ordinance says about fines:

Section X-G

“If the notice of violation and order is not complied with promptly, the inspector of buildings shall institute the appropriate action or proceeding at law or in equity to prevent any unlawful action, use or condition and to restrain, correct or abate such violation. Penalties for violations may, upon conviction, be affixed in an amount not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300.00) for each offense. Each day, or portion of a day, that any violation is allowed to continue shall constitute a separate offense.”

That sounds pretty fierce and downright scary.

What the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) said at the informational meeting for Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), and I am paraphrasing here, is that the Planning Board, the Building Inspector and the ZBA all have the ability to use fines but they do NOT and never have levied fines.

What was explained was that fines are there in municipal law as a last resort.  If they did not exist, a developer could come into town and say, “I’ll do anything I want,” and there would be no legal tool to stop them.

What was explained that evening is that the same criterion would apply to the Newburyport’s proposed LHD.

Letter to the Editor on Newburyport’s LHD

Historic Newburyport Home

Historic Newburyport Home

There is a wonderful Letter to the Editor in today’s Newburyport Daily news about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) by L.M. Klee.

“This is not about “I win, you lose” or “I’m right and you’re wrong”; it is about a win for Newburyport’s stature in the annals of American architecture and history. The bones of this city were here long before we were. Most of the residents are not related to the founders, the ship builders and early farmers, but in some way, we are here today because of them. To have lived here for two years or several generations and ignore Newburyport’s historical prominence architecturally seems disrespectful. We are fortunate to be a part of that history and need to consider our roles in protecting that seriously. We can collectively shape the city’s future and allow future generations to experience a sense of its history long after our presence is felt on these streets. The responsibility for that today is only ours.”

To read the entire letter press here.

And to see the list of all 49 Letters to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News, and their links, written in favor of Newburyport’s proposed LHD press here.

J.P. Marquand, Newburyport and the Local Historic District (LHD)

J.P Marquand, Courtesy of Boston Public Library Print Department, press to enlarge

J.P Marquand, Courtesy of Boston Public Library Print Department, press to enlarge

On Monday night’s Local Historic District (LHD) informational meeting on March 26, 2012, the questions that were asked, for the most part, were intended to learn more about Newburyport’s proposed LHD.  The people asking questions included folks who were “on the fence” or openly against the LHD. The tone was respectful, with about 4 exceptions. And I thought the meeting was very informative.

The qualifications and the “integrity” of the people on LHD Study Committee itself were questioned  (not so courteous).

A “gentleman” (it reminded me of the online commentators in the Newburyport Daily News) basically accused the Newburyport LHD Study Committee of being “carpetbaggers.”

One of the things that the person might not have been aware of, is that one of the Study Committee members, their grandfather was J.P. Marquand.  Not bad to have someone with that kind of “institutional memory” on the LHD Study Committee. The purpose of the LHD being to protect and preserve the distinctive historical characteristics in the proposed Local Historic District.

Fines and Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

moneyThe literature that is being mailed, handed out by those who oppose Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) , the “Say No to  LHD” folks, would have you believe that if you do something in the proposed LHD that the LHD  Commission (should the Newburyport City Council vote in favor of the LHD) might have some reservations about, you will be fined $500 a day into bankruptcy.

I think this is what one could call “propaganda” because it is so ridiculously not true.

Good grief!

(Definition of propaganda: “Information, ideas, or rumors deliberately spread widely to help or harm a person, group, movement, institution, nation, etc.” “The deliberate spreading of such information, rumors, etc.”)

On Monday night at the LHD informational meeting the subject of fines was cleared up (at least for those who have an open mind, and for those who don’t think that the LHD is some sort of government conspiracy).

What the chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) said, and I am paraphrasing here, is that the Planning Board, the Building Inspector and the ZBA all have the ability to use fines but they do NOT and never have levied fines.

Fines are there in municipal law as a last resort.  If they did not exist, a developer could come into town and say, “I’ll do anything I want,” and there would be no legal tool to stop them.

The LHD Study Committee is writing a city ordinance, a city law, which is not done lightly. (And the LHD Study Committee is not a “group” the way one of the leaders of the “Say No to LHD” keeps describing them.)

The drafting of a municipal law is a “process,” and is a “work in progress.”

And the LHD Study Committee is still clarifying the whole “fine” thing in the ordinance-law that is in the process of being written.

So no, contrary to the propaganda being distributed by the “Say No to LHD” folks, if you live in Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD), you would not be fined daily into bankruptcy.

As was explained at the informational hearing on Monday night, the same criterion would apply to the proposed Newburyport LHD that applies to the Newburyport Planning Board and the Newburyport ZBA.

Local Historic District (LHD) Public Meeting, March 19, 2012

The video of the Local Historic District (LHD) public informational meeting on March 19, 2012, is actual better than being in the meeting itself.  The the speakers as well questions and answers are much easier to understand.  There is a lot of good information on the video about the proposed LHD.  It is well worth watching.

Local Historic District Public Meeting, March 19, 2012, press to start video

Local Historic District Public Meeting, March 19, 2012, press to start video

The March 19, 2012 Local Historic District (LHD) informational public meeting at Newburyport City Hall.