Facts about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

Facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD)

  • Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District  (LHD) consists of High Street and downtown Newburyport from Winter to Federal Street. (It just includes those areas.  It does not include Plum Island.)  For a map of the proposed LHD press here.
  • The purpose of the proposed LHD is to protect and preserve distinctive historic characteristics in the proposed area.
  • High Street and downtown are vital to cultural and economic the wellbeing of the city.
  • There is no longer protection for downtown Newburyport. The Urban Renewal Plan for Downtown Newburyport expired in 2005.
  • High Street was almost destroyed by MassHighway in 1999. The LHD provides protection to the roadway so that would never happen again.
  • The LHD strives to create a balance between protection of our historic heritage and homeowner’s rights.
  • The creation of an LHD is an ongoing process that continues to incorporate public feedback.
  • The LHD deals with architecture that is only visible from the public way.
  • The LHD only applies to architecture built before 1930.
  • The LHD does not affect ordinary maintenance and repairs, landscaping, sidewalks, terraces, roofing material, shutters, shutter hardware, gutters, storm doors, storm windows, exterior lights, driveways, and minor details such as paint color (for all all of the outside of the building, including doors and trim).
  • The LHD does not affect the interior of a building, and by state law can never affect the interior of a building.
  • By Massachusetts state law, the LHD can not be voluntary and home owners cannot “opt-out.”
  • Fines: The Planning Board, the Building Inspector and the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) all have the ability to use fines, but they do not and never have levied fines.  Fines are 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 same criterion would apply to the proposed LHD.
  • By state law the only tool available to prevent demolition of historic homes is a LHD.  Zoning laws cannot solve this issue.
  • The LHD will be voted on by the Newburyport City Council, and needs a super majority of the Newburyport City Council votes, 8 out of 11 councilors.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD requires the creation of a commission to oversee the LHD, that is made up only of Newburyport residents.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD ordinance cannot be changed without a super majority of the Newburyport City Council Vote, 8 out of 11 councilors.
  • If the LHD passes, by law the LHD cannot be expanded except by a very long and tedious process,  just like the one that Newburyport has been going through for the last 4+ years.
Map of Newburyport's Proposed Local Historic District (LHD)

Map of Newburyport's proposed LHD

Map of Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

To see a larger map press here.

To see all the information on Newburyport’s proposed LHD press here.

Yes! LHD Signs (Newburyport Local Historic District)

The “YES! LHD” signs are going up all over town today.

They say “YES! LHD” Support a Local HIstoric District, Citizens for Historic Newburyport (CHN).

Yes! LHD, Support a Local Historic District

Yes! LHD, Support a Local Historic District

To read more about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) press here.

And to see the map of the proposed LHD and the link to the online petition press here.

YES! LHD (Newburyport's proposed Local Historic District)

YES! LHD, Support a Local Historic District

Citizens for Historic Newburyport (CHN) can be reached at citizens@historicnewburyport.com, www.historicnewburyport.com.

If you would like a sign you can also contact The Newburyport Blog.

Newburyport’s Local Historic District, LHD-YES!

LHD-YES, Support a Local Historic District

LHD-YES!, Support a Local Historic District

This is my car.  Gorgeous new LHD-YES!, Support a Local Historic District.

Good for Citizens for Historic Newburyport!!

You go guys!!

To read more about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD) press here.

And to see the map of the proposed LHD and the link to the online petition press here.

Citizens for Historic Newburyport (CHN) can be reached at citizens@historicnewburyport.com, www.historicnewburyport.com.

Newburyport March Local Historic District (LHD) Meetings

This is an announcement from the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Study Committee:

Got Questions about the Proposed LHD?

Get the answers at two

Public Information Forums at the

City Hall Auditorium

1. Ask the Experts – Monday, 19 March 2012 at 7:00 P.M.

Preservation lawyer Marilyn Fenollosa, preservation consultant Gretchen Schuler, and Massachusetts Historical Commission Director of Local Government Programs Chris Skelly will answer your questions about LHDs in general, preservation law, and additional preservation options among other topics.

2. Follow-up – Monday, 26 March 2012 at 7:00 P.M.

Informal discussion groups with Study Committee members.

Send in your questions to lhdsc@cityofnewburyport.com or

Local Historic District Study Committee

City Hall, 60 Pleasant Street

Newburyport, MA 01950

To see the new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) meant to clarify some of the misinformation and confusion about Newburyport’s proposed LHD see previous post or press here or on the City of Newburyport’s website here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Guidelines (3/5/2012) press here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Ordinance (3/5/2012) press here.

New FAQ about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

I just received this via email.  This is the new, updated  Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) by the Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Study Committee.  I imagine that the FAQ are in response to much of the confusion and misinformation that is out there about Newburyport’s prosed LHD.

Frequently Asked Questions  NEW

The Study Committee has revised the proposed ordinance and guidelines in response to public input. The process of creating an LHD that is fair to property owners and protective of the city’s historic architecture continues; please send questions and comments to lhdsc@cityofnewburyport.com.

Newburyport seems to have gotten along fine without an LHD; why have one now?

Appearances can be deceiving. In recent years there have been numerous tear downs, destructive repairs, and incompatible additions to historic buildings. Critically, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority no longer oversees the downtown. The LHD would help stop harmful practices, encourage sympathetic renovations and new construction, and attract new property owners respectful of Newburyport’s historic character.

I take good care of my home and wouldn’t sell to anyone who would not; why is that not sufficient?

Sellers ordinarily cannot control what is done to their properties. And annual residential turnover in Newburyport is a high 15% despite the recession.

Would I have to go before the LHD Commission every time I wanted to do something to my house? And have to hire architects and lawyers?

No. Firstly, review applies only to exterior work viewable from the street on structures built before 1930. Secondly, whatever presently exists would be grandfathered in, so like may be replaced with like. Thirdly, most common work is excluded from review (see next question). Review would only be triggered if you already had to apply for a regular building permit and the work was not excluded by the preceding.

Where review is required, applicants are encouraged to have a preliminary working session with the Commission. You would not have to have professional help unless you wanted it.

What work is excluded from review?

A long list including ordinary maintenance and repair, landscaping, storm and screen windows and doors, exterior painting, roofing, gutters, and shutters (see section 4 of the ordinance).

How would windows be treated?

The guidelines emphasize repairing damaged windows, and windows in good repair give good energy efficiency with storms. However, replacement windows would be allowed if they matched the historic windows, and many such replacements are available.

Could the Commission change the ordinance if it wanted to? And could the LHD be expanded?

Only with the same public review and two-thirds vote of the City Council that the proposed ordinance and guidelines themselves have required.

How would an LHD affect my taxes and the value of my house?

By law, there can be no effect at all on your real estate taxes; and many studies have shown that LHDs help maintain property values.

Who would be on the Commission?

Only City residents can be; and the ordinance requires that at least 3 of the 5 members also be residents of the district itself. The ordinance also recommends that membership include architects, realtors, historic preservationists, and business owners. The aim is a supportive Commission with useful expertise and broad community oversight.

The Newburyport Local Historic District Study Committee’s website can be found here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Guidelines (3/5/2012) press here.

To see the NEW updated LHD proposed Ordinance (3/5/2012) press here.

Local Historic District (LHD) and High Street in 1971 from P.Preservationist

High Street, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

High Street, Courtesy of the Library of Congress

The P. Preservationist has written a fascinating story about the effort to have High Street be a Local Historic District (LHD) in 1971.

The P. Preservationist has gone to the Newburyport Archives and done some mega research.

Everyone here at the Newburyport Blog, me and the frogs, are mighty impressed. This is definitely a must read.

P. Preservationist points out that there are differences today:

First, we have far fewer Townies present today and they represent a minority in our political scene.  Second, our demographics have changed.   We have a large percentage of people who have moved here precisely because of the historic neighborhoods.  Third and most importantly, the class structure that so bedeviled Bossy Gillis and John Marquand no longer exists.”

High Street, © Sally Chandler, 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

High Street, © Sally Chandler, 2004, Courtesy of "Historic Gardens of Newburyport"

He has a marvelous quote which, as he points out, is reminiscent of today:

“High Street resident, Elizabeth L. Whiting complained, ‘Surely informative ideas of the many, gently and rationally expressed, deserve as much attention than the ideas of the latter [opponents] which are presented in deliberately caustic and irrelevant oratory.’ ”

You can read the whole post here.

False Statements on the “Say No to LHD” Mass Mailing

Disclaimer here:  Dr. Heersink who wrote a Letter to the Editor on on February 27, 2011 is my favorite doctor in Newburyport. As a doctor he is amazing.  I just happen to disagree with his stance on the proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

In the letter, among other things, Dr. Heersink defends the “Say No to LHD” (which he is a member of) literature that was mass mailed (2,700 pieces of mail) about 10 days ago.  The frogs and I on the Newburyport Blog have put our heads together and where to begin to counter all the allegations made in this disingenuous mailing.

Now usually I don’t like the comment section of the Newburyport Daily News, but the Newburyport Daily News has clarified their comment policy recently, so it looks like I won’t be called a “Nazi controlling zealot” any more, because that would be “racist and abusive.”  So whew! (I hope.)

There was a reply to Dr. Heersink by “GloryBe456″ (another poster thought it was moi, not so).  It’s a little strident for the Newburyport Blog’s taste, but since it makes so many points that the frogs and I agree with, I thought I would quote it on the Newburyport Blog (and it may capture the anger and frustration that is out there with “Say No to LHD”).

GloryBe456  (Whoever you are, and the spelling was corrected by moi-I am the Editor of The Newburyport Blog after all.)

“If Dr. Heersink is a member of “Say No to LHD”, then he should know that, considering the people he’s working with, the errors are not inadvertent, but on purpose.

If the members of this group knew city law, they would know that all members of all boards and commissions have to be city residents.  But, “inadvertrently” they stated in their mailing that LHD commission members didn’t have to be.

Another “inadvertent”  error is that people are going to be fined left, right and sideways if they do something the LHD commission doesn’t like.  Well, isn’t that interesting – did you know that the ZBA, Planning Board and Conservation Commission and Tree Committee and Building Inspector can levy fines, too? Guess when the last time was that happened?  That’s right, never.

Yet another “inadvertent” error was that all work requiring a permit will force homeowners to go in front of the LHD Commission.  Oh, really? WRONG!!!! a small fraction of work currently requiring a permit would require review by an LHD Commission.

Shall I go on?

Funny, the “Say No” group states that LHDs will DECREASE the value of your home.  At the same time, in his letter, Dr. Heersink, a Say No member, states that it’s irrelevant if the LHD INCREASES your property values.  Really? Which is it, Dr.?  Show me your data, Say No, that LHDs decrease property values.  You can’t.

Let’s keep going – “Say No” claims that “no construction, alteration, moving, demolition, etc.” will not be permitted without a “certificate of approval”.  WRONG AGAIN!  It’s called a “check off” at the building department that what the applicant is looking to do doesn’t come under the LHD commission’s jurisdiction.  Same was planning and zoning stuff is taken care of now.

Another incorrect “fact”. That the study committee has agreed to a “phased approach” to implementing the LHD throughout the national register historic district. WRONG! there is no ‘agreement’ to “phase in” more of the district.  IF anyone wanted to try such a thing, the ENTIRE process that the study committee has gone through would have to be started ALL OVER AGAIN – and good luck with that!

Costs of owning your home will increase by being in an LHD. WRONG! they are not requiring expansive features, finishes, etc.  Like vinyl siding? You’ll SAVE money in the end by not installing it because you won’t trap moisture in the walls of the house (which would lead to mold and moss growth, sheathing that will never dry out and have to be replaced – the removal of these things later will end up costing you way more than you think you “saved” on painting and regular maintenance had you not put it on to begin with.

Finally, all of the things the “Say No” people have listed as “at your expense” and “at the homeowner’s expense” are NO DIFFERENT than how the ZBA and planning boards work now.  the building inspector himself has ordered people to hire structural engineers “at the homeowner’s expense” if he sees a problem with a project.  So, stop the fear-mongering. Better to spend your time learning how your government works first.”

“Say No to LHD” Campaign

It is possible that only Tom Salemi could approach the whole Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) thing with humor, marked with wisdom and humility. (Alas, the Newburyport Blog‘s experience is what my fellow blogger recommends in his Newburyport Today article, that we be “a community” and “stay classy,” might not actually be possible in what has been dubbed, and what I thought had disappeared, but has seemingly been resurrected, “Cannibal City.”)

A bagel

A bagel

Tom opens his article with his experience of being aggressively approached in front of Abraham’s Bagels by one of the “Say No to LHD” folks on their anti-LHD campaign, at 8:30 on a Saturday morning, as he was trying to get some breakfast (great bagels from Abraham’s Bagels, a thumbs up from this born and raised in New York, New Yawker, who knows from bagels, a “blow in,” a “newby,” moi, who has “only” lived here, in Newburyport, for 31 years) for his family.

In his piece in Newburyport Today, Tom Salemi (the author of the well loved blog, Newburyport Posts) writes, “But let’s all do this right.  Let’s handle this with the same grace that we’ve employed with the IBEW protests.  We don’t need to roll in the mud.”

And I agree with Tom, what is necessary is “an informed and engaged public,” Tom’s words.

And what Tom Salemi points out with grace and dignity, is at this point, the “Say No to LHD” folks are giving people information filled with inaccuracies and omission of the facts.

And, yes, this makes it difficult to have  an informed and thoughtful discussion.

I guess aggressively handing out information in front of Abraham’s Bagels was not enough. The “Say No to LHD”  folks have made a mass mailing-2,700 pieces of mail (which one of my neighbors, when they received the mailing, thought was going to be an anti-drug missive), including the flyer handed out in front of Abraham’s Bagels, full of misinformation, scare tactics and omission of the facts.

As one friend said to me, on one of my many walks around my beloved historic city, “It’s hard to get a positive message out there when the default reaction is ‘No,’ and you are dealing with lies” (their word, not mine).

You can read Tom Salemi’s article at Newburyport Today, February 16, 2012, “Take the Bagels, Leave the Petition,” here.

The online petition in favor of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) can be found here.

For quick facts about the LHD press here.

The Newburyport LHD Wars

From what I can make out, and George and the other “political consultants” to the Newburyport Blog can make out, there are two groups of folks who are against Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).

The “Say NO to LHD” folks, who appear to be Tea Party folks, who are misrepresenting and distorting the facts (see previous posts here and here).

And it also appears that the opposition, also often very hostile opposition, which might be the “masses” that Newburyport City Councilor Dick Sullivan was referring to in his quote in the article on the Local Historic District by Brenda Buote in the Boston Globe that can be read here.

The film "A Measure of Change"

The film “A Measure of Change”

There is an amazing film made about Newburyport in 1975 called “A Measure of Change” that can be seen here.  I think two of the comments below the video sum up what some of the more “silent” opposition to the LHD are feeling.

“…our heritage replaced by tourist traps, overpriced specialty shops, higher taxes, impossibly high rents for working-class citizens…  I loved the old town, but it wasn’t rebuilt, it was essentially destroyed, and replaced with some architectural designs that our ancesters would never have tolerated. Why do you think so many former Newburyporters ARE former Newburyporters??  They can no longer afford to live there. The city has been taken over by special interests from out of state… This pathetic attempt to put lipstick on this pig won’t make it acceptable to me, for one.”

And another commentator in reply:

“You said it in a nut shell!  I was born and raised there, but by the time i was 30ish my parents had to put their house on the market because they could no longer afford to live there. And they both grew up there as well, and hated to leave. They spend the rest of their day in NH.”

And from one of the opposition LHD petitions.

“…tell the do gooders to get a life and get out of ours.”

“Work in town. This is a really bad idea. Old time nbpter, not a blow in.”

“Another layer of socialist bureaucracy, by a board of permit komaczars who answer to no one with unlimited autocratic authority…And to think this whole nonsense began because some newby didn’t like the way his neighbor kept his property. Disgusting!”

Lots of anger there.

But at this point, and it could most certainly change, the pro-LHD petition now has 300 signatures, mostly from “blow ins,” who “blew in” 30 to 40 some years ago, to more recently. And the two anti-LHD petitions, one has 24 signatures, and the other has 4 signatures (I don’t think “Oecpexgrmu” counts).

So the “masses” that Dick Sullivan has referred to, might be the folks who are not “blow ins” or “newbies” or “do gooders,” but “old time Newburyporters” (“nbpter”).

I’ve been told that local historic districts don’t create friction in the community, but they do bring to the surface the frictions that already exist.

The “No LHD” Folks and Distortion of the Facts

One of the real problems I have with the “Say No to LHD” folks is not only presenting wrong information as the truth (see previous post), but also the weird distortion of the facts about Newburyport’s proposed Local Historic District (LHD).  The point of the misinformation and distortion of the facts appears to be 1) to scare folks into either being terrified that this “socialist” agenda, or 2) just scaring them in general with distorted and false information.  And that distorted information gets out there, and is perceived by good and well intentioned folks as fact.

I wish I was making this up.

The proposed Newburyport LHD is based on state law. Each state differs in their laws about a LHD.  Our state law is called Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40C, which can be read here.  The draft of the proposed LHD ordinance references Chapter 40C.

Folks have emailed me and I have read many “alternatives” to having a LHD.  Have the guidelines under the Zoning Board of Appeals, the Planning Board, the Building Inspector to prevent another layer of government.  Have a voluntary LHD the way they do in Rhode Island.

Our state law is very specific.  And a LHD cannot be voluntary (it maybe in other states, but not in our state).   By law, the Zoning Board, Planning Board and the Building Inspector do not have a say over what a LHD in our state would cover.

And if the LHD passes, by state law, the ordinance can only be amended by a super majority of the Newburyport City Council, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  If the city wanted to expand the LHD, it would have to go through what it went through to create the proposed LHD. There would be a new investigation,  the new area would be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, there would be a public hearing and it would need to be approved by the council by a super majority, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  This is laid out in Section 3 of our state law, which can be read here.

State law requires a LHD Commission, and that is laid out in Section 4 of Mass General Law 40C which can be read here.

Also their claim that only 2 city residents will be on the LHD Commission is false.  Our own Newburyport City law 2-62 states very clearly:

“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.”

The creation of the proposed Newburyport LHD is also a work in progress.  As an example, this is from the Newburyport Daily News, February 13, 2012, by Dyke Hendrickson.

“The Local Historic District Study Committee has voted to avoid the potential of expensive roofing bills by deleting a measure in its draft that would have required slate roofs to be replaced by slate roofs on structures within the proposed historic district.

The committee met Thursday night, and in discussing feedback it has received, it was stated that homeowners have expressed concern about a proposed requirement stating that a building owner had to replace slate with slate.

In mulling the matter, co-chair Doug Locy called on his own experience to say that a slate roof could cost $110,000, while a roof of another (appropriate) material could cost about $10,000…

The five-member study committee agreed to delete “slate” from its final report, and thus the use of asphalt shingling or other surfaces will be included in the proposed ordinance the committee sends to the City Council in late spring.”

The revised guidelines for the proposed Newburyport LHD will be put up on the City’s website after March 1st.  And the proposed 2nd draft of the LHD has not yet had a Public Hearing, or gone before the Newburyport City Council, where it will most, if not very likely, if not definitely be further amended.

The No LHD Literature-Wrong Information

I was given a copy of the literature (one piece of paper) from the “Say No To LHD” folks.

2 things immediately stand out as just wild misinformation !!  Just plain WRONG information!!  Hello.

1) Their claim that  the LHD Commission would only require 2 Newburyport residents.  WRONG!  FALSE!

Every member on the LHD Commission would be a Newburyport resident, just like any other Newburyport board and commission.  It was assumed that people would understand this.  But since there is so much misinformation out there, the wording on the second draft of the LHD ordinance will clarify that the Commission will be made up of Newburyport residents only, not “outsiders.”

2)  Their claim that any changes, including enlargement of the LHD or additional restrictions, would require a simple majority vote in the Newburyport City Council. WRONG!  FALSE!

A) Any change to the ordinance would require a super majority vote in the council, 8 out of the 11 councilors.  (Mass General Law 40C, Section 3)

“Any ordinance or by-law creating an historic district may, from time to time, be amended in any manner not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter by a two-thirds vote of the city council in a city..”

B) And if the LHD were to be enlarged, the city would go through the exact same thing that it has gone through with the creating this LHD. There would be a new investigation, the new area would be reviewed by the Massachusetts Historical Commission, there would be a public hearing, and it would need to be approved by the council by a super majority, 8 out of the 11 councilors. (Mass General Law 40C, Section 3)

“An historic district may be enlarged or reduced or an additional historic district in a city or town created in the manner provided for creation of the initial district…”

Please, facts are important.  Get the facts right!!

Boston Globe Article about Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

There is an article in today’s Boston Globe on Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD).  There are some excerpts below.  You can read the entire article by Brenda Buote here.

“The proposal has reignited a decades-old dispute between those who believe a local historic district is needed to guide future development and protect Newburyport’s rich heritage, and homeowners who view the proposed commission as an assault on their property rights…

Newburyport is widely considered one of the most architecturally rich areas of the country. High Street, for example, includes many Federal-style homes that were built between 1778 and 1818, at the height of New England’s maritime culture, as well as a number of homes that represent a greater variety of architectural styles, from bungalows to Colonials and Greek Revivals…

“There is a totally different kind of development pressure today than there was in the 1970s,’’ said Sarah White, chairwoman of the city’s Local Historic District Study Committee, noting that “many property owners on High Street have been approached because they have deep lots that could support another structure. For years, we’ve been relying on luck and the largesse of a lot of people who don’t want to sell to developers. The question is, how much longer do we want to rely on luck?’’…

Local historic districts offer the strongest form of protection for structures deemed worthy of preservation, giving a locally appointed commission the authority to review proposed changes to exterior architectural features visible from a public way. Under state law, such districts can be created by local ordinance, but require two-thirds majority approval by the municipality’s city council or town meeting…

White said the study committee is working to address the concerns of those opposed to the local historic district, and will be modifying language in the draft ordinance before the panel’s final report reaches the City Council…

Rather than having authority over buildings that are more than 75 years old, the commission would likely only review proposed alterations to buildings constructed before 1930, White said. In addition, the study committee plans to eliminate language requiring review of roofing materials, and add a residency requirement mandating that all members of the commission live in Newburyport….

White stressed that the levying of fines would be “rare, an absolute last resort,’’ and was quick to point out that if the commission is established, it would not be able to expand the district’s boundaries on a whim; a study committee would have to examine the issue, and any proposed change would have to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the City Council. Likewise, if the commission wanted to extend its powers to include purview over new items, such as paint colors or landscaping, such a change would have to be approved by at least eight of the City Council’s 11 members, White said, to meet the two-thirds requirement.”…

Comments on the Online Petition in Support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD)

Downtown Newburyport, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

Downtown Newburyport, Courtesy of the City of Newburyport

These are some of the comments on the online petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD).  The petition reads:

“We the undersigned are in support of creating a Local Historic District for Newburyport, Massachusetts that consists of High Street, the gateway to the city, and downtown Newburyport.

We support preserving the historic character of these two areas that are vital to the economic well-being of the city.”

The online petition has reached 200 signatures as of today.  One online petition against the LHD has 20 signatures, the other has 1.

The online petition in support of Newburyport’s Local Historic District can be signed here.

Here are some of the comments:

“It is very important that we approve this proposed historic district covering High St. and the downtown area. The proposal is restrained, rational and thoughtful and we are way late in making this designation.”

“This is an important next step for the City of Newburyport. The historical district provides opportunity to assure that its historical character is not lost for future generations.”

“Newburyport must have a designated historic district. It is absolutely foolhardy to not protect these irreplaceable treasures.”

“We live in a historic 1845 home (on High Street) and we think that creation of an LHD will help all of us to preserve the historic character and beauty of Newburyport into the future.”

“I think the LHD is long overdue. My thanks to the committee volunteers for taking on this effort.”

“Absolutely needed!”

“I strongly support the LHD to protect our rights as homeowners. We bought our home specifically because of the consistency of its historic neighborhood. Significant alteration or demolition of historic properties in Newburyport would diminish our experience of living here. Over time, if the historic context is allowed to erode, property values in Newburyport will be far less than they could be.”

“I agree that maintaining the historic nature of our town is what makes Newburyport such a special place to live.”

“LHD is needed to protect the important historical fabric of Newburyport.”

“Please protect our treasured place.”

“The authentic architectural heritage of our city is one of our greatest strengths and adds meaningful value to everyone’s property. We should protect this.”

Wording In the Newburyport LHD Ordinance That Would Protect High Street

In 1999 MassHighway almost destroyed High Street (see earlier post here).

I am beyond thrilled.  The Newburyport Local Historic District (LHD) Study Committee has voted to include wording in the proposed draft ordinance to protect High Street, the actual roadway,  if a federal or state grant funding project, to take care of  High Street, ever triggers “major alterations,” the way it did in 1999. It took an exhausting  city wide effort, to stop MassHighway from destroying High Street back in 1999, which would have effected everyone’s property values, especially the houses on High Street. We as a city would never have to go through what we went through in 1999!!

Here is the draft wording that would go in the draft of the proposed LHD ordinance:

Draft language for section of Newburyport Historic District Ordinance


6.7: If a “Major Alteration” is proposed for the public way of High Street, the Commission shall provide design review, consultation, and recommendations during the planning, preliminary design, final design, and construction stages.  While the Commission will not have the authority to grant or deny a permit for such a project, any municipal or state proponent of such a Major Alteration project is required to notify and work with the Commission from the earliest planning stages of the project.  “Major Alterations” are defined as changes to the curb-line, width, and alignment of High Street; the removal of ten or more street trees as part of a single project unless they are designated as hazard trees by the Tree Warden; the removal of a hundred or more linear feet of brick sidewalk and replacement with another material as part of a single project; and the installation of ten or more new signs as part of a single project, and other such alterations of similar magnitude and impact. Paving, striping, utility work within the existing road footprint, sidewalk repair, re-setting curbs in existing alignment, incremental signage alterations, street tree pruning, and other such maintenance and alterations are not defined as “Major Alterations” and will not require the level of consultation and review anticipated by this ordinance.  The purpose of such review, consultation, and monitoring by the Commission will be to broadly maintain and restore the distinctive historic character and alignment of High Street while balancing contemporary vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle transportation and safety needs as well as universal access requirements.

For Newburyport’s LHD, Conspiracy Theories Just Don’t Fit

I totally agree with the P.Preservationist.  When it comes to advocating for Newburyport’s Local Historic District (LHD) one cannot have a rational back and forth discussion with folks who bring in an expert from the John Birch Society, to explain a conspiracy theory about the United Nations (UN) hatching a social engineering plot about lowering the standard of living for all Americans, and linking that to historic preservation and a proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport, Massachusetts.  (I am not making this up, see previous post.)

Newburyport, Downtown and the LHD

Ken Woods wrote an outstanding piece in yesterday’s Newburyport Daily News.

Mr. Woods began his piece by saying, “A wise friend told me no good deed goes unpunished. Well, here goes anyway.”  And the comments slammed, very ungraciously, his most excellent piece.  Mr. Woods, thank you, “You did good.”

One of the things that I get asked all the time is, “Show me examples of how the architectural fabric of Newburyport has been abused.”

Believe me, that is not a problem, but people live in these homes, and, at the very worst, I don’t want to be sued, and at the very least, I don’t want to get a whole bunch of very “upset” emails and/or phone calls.  (If I had a legal team and got paid reams of money for writing the Newburyport Blog, that might be different, but it just being me-now for 6 years as of January 1st, going on 7, I might add, I still like the possibility of continuing being the editor of the Newburyport Blog.)

But Ken Woods points out something so important, and I think I’ll quote him, I hope he would not mind.

“For those who need a good reason for creating a Local Historic District in Newburyport, you need look no farther than the new penthouse atop the Bracket Heel Building at 7 Prince Place. Looking north down State Street from High Street, the new penthouse is more than visible and clearly has no place on our historic skyline. I personally have the added displeasure of seeing this penthouse every single time I head west down my own street. There is good reason to believe this penthouse would not have been built had an LHD been in place.

No words are needed to justify adopting the Local Historic District as proposed for our beautiful city. The reason is right in front of you — just look up.” (Ken Woods, Letter to the Editor, January 2, 2012, Newburyport Daily News, to read the whole letter, please press here.)

People tell me that nobody would hurt downtown Newburyport.  Well they have, and they will, and Mr. Woods has pointed out one very recent example, and if there is not Local Historic District for Newburyport, you bet there will be more.  (And this is a developer, not a homeowner, and if anyone thinks that developers have Newburyport’s best interest at heart, they are wrong.  Developers need to make money, and money is the bottom line, not historic preservation.)

A list of all the Letters to the Editor in the Newburyport Daily News concerning Newburyport’s Local Historic District can be seen here.

Leading–the Best and the Worst of the Legislative Process, Newburyport 2014


This year, 2014, it is my opinion that Newburyport saw the best and the worst examples of the legislative process in the Newburyport City Council


The best was the attempt to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets.

The process had its origins in Newburyport’s raucous and rancorous LHD debate (see endless posts). The two sides as I now look back:

1) Preserving Newburyport’s historic assets through regulations governed by a particular commission.
2) A concern about the control of that commission, and a distrust of commissions like it in other communities.

I ended up thinking that both were valid points of view.

And then Newburyport City Councilor Katy Ives spent a good year and a half listening to all and sundry and came up with an incredible win-win solution.

1) The properties before 1930 in Newburyport’s Historic District could not be demolished.
2) Newburyport’s commercial downtown, our “brand,” needed to be preserved.

Katy Ives got elected to the Massachusetts State Senate, and the compromise by Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives died. Poof.

That is until Jared Eigerman got elected as Ward 2′s City Councilor. And Councilor Eigerman met with the “Yes LHD” folks, the “No LHD” folks, hardcore preservationists, and hardcore property rights folks. It was made clear that no one was going to get everything they wanted, and that an ordinance would be presented that was possible in the existing political climate. It was basically what Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives had proposed a year and a half before.

People may have not liked all of it, but it passed unanimously with an 11-0 vote.

And people, whether they liked all of it or not, did not:

1) Feel ignored
2) Feel invisible
3) Feel as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that took into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The result = a whiff, or slightly more than a whiff, of trust and hope.


The worst legislative process in 2014 by the Newburyport City Council in my opinion was the Plastic Bag Ban.

For me this was the most frustrating and appalling legislative process that I have been involved in. During that process, all kinds of very productive points of view and ideas were presented. They were swept under the rug.

As a result people:

1) Felt ignored
2) Felt invisible
3) Felt as if their insights were insignificant

People felt that a decision had been made that did not take into account a wide variety of feelings and thoughts about the issue.

The measure passed with a split vote of 6-5 with 2 of the City Councilors who voted for the measure, expressing doubt and reservation on the Council floor.

The result = a huge lack of trust, a festering sore and lingering resentment, and discouragement (the opposite of hope) in a process that did not reflect the larger representation of the citizens of Newburyport.

Perspective from Newburyport City Councilor Meghan Kinsey

I really appreciate the perspective from Newburyport City Councilor Meghan Kinsey that was expressed in an email to her constituents.

“I would fully agree with Councillor Cameron’s assertion that the Council (10 of the 11 were present) did not “balk”. Quite the contrary. We were intrigued and impressed by Councillor Eigerman’s ability of to remove much of what made the previous LHD proposals so unattractive to many and start new with a zoning change.”  …and “Let me start by saying that this community is quite fortunate to have Councillor Eigerman, and all the expertise he brings, on our council. As a land use attorney who is trained in city planning, we got a lot of “bang for our buck” in him.”  Councilor Kinsey points out that the three proposed ordinances “are heavy with legal-speak and we, as a council, are still trying to get our heads around them.”

Councilor Kinsey’s entire email can be read here.

The Jackals are Out – Newburyport Zoning

It didn’t take long. And yes, they are back.  The Say No to LHD Jackals are back.  Lyndi Lanphear, who got soundly defeated in November’s election for Newburyport City Council at Large, coming in second to last, is out with a Letter to the Editor in today’s Newburyport Daily News, that once again twists the facts, misrepresents the facts, and tries to scare the wits out of people by telling them stuff that is blatantly not true.

And Larry Cavalieri is in the cheering commenting section of the Newburyport Daily News, with comments that one can only think are meant to not only twist the facts, but intimidate people into not speaking up as well. “Vicious” and “foul,” are words, in my mind, that are not meant to be an “opinion,” but words that are meant to be invective.

And The Newburyport Daily News, btw, all sorts of anonymous commentators are also back.  Might want to clear that one up.

I can only hope that this Newburyport City Council can stay above the screaming fray, and come up with a good and equitable decision on Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman’s three detailed and thoughtful zoning proposals.

And if you would like the correct information please press here.

Update:  Lyndi Lanphear has organized a meeting this Saturday to try and stop the zoning proposals from ever happening. Newburyport City Councilor Jared Eigerman has offered to explain to the people at that meeting what the zoning amendments are actually about, and what they hope to accomplish (zoning is complicated).  It is my understanding that Mrs. Lanphear has not taken Councilor Eigerman up on his charitable offer. It is my opinion that Lyndi Lanphear would rather confuse, obfuscate and frighten people with fictitious statements, than acknowledge the facts, and make constructive and helpful observations, the way Dick Hordon, the chair of the Say No to LHD group, who Councilor Eigerman sat down with, already has.

Newburyport and the Ideological Right – They Deliver

Maybe my hyperventilating over Governor Romney’s running mate (see previous post), Tea Party darling, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh endorsed, Paul Ryan, has something to do with my first-hand local experience with the “slash and burn,” “take no prisoners,” “malign all opposed” politics of the folks who do not want to preserve Newburyport’s historic assets, the proposed Local Historic District (LHD), led by a member of Newburyport’s very own Tea Party, and I gather fan of the John Birch Society.

On my walk around Newburyport this weekend, I ran into a friend who wanted to know what I thought of the article in the Boston Globe about the progress of Newburyport’s Local Historic District’s (LHD), and the LHD’s slow winding path getting to the Newburyport City Council.  And in the course of our conversation, I said something to the effect that, “People wonder why, at this point, I’m not doing more.” The response was, “Well, you got the shit kicked out of your, everyone knows that.”  For which the person got a hug.

Fox News Opinion on the web has a piece called, “America’s coming civil war – makers vs takers,” predictably the wealthy, the makers, pitted against everyone from seniors, to folks who need help with student loans to go to college.

Our local “Say No to LHD” folks definitely feel like that same strident, militant mindset… heck, it is that same militant mindset.  The LHD, in their minds, equals “social engineering,” yes, this is true (I hate to even link to the actual factual proof, because it gives the John Birch Society such pleasure. How do I know that, because that particular post went viral, via the John Birch Society’s Facebook page – I wish I was kidding).

Yes, and anonymous townies, threatened by “newcomers,” joined in the fray (and townies who no longer live here, or live/visit here periodically).  But it is our own John Birch tea party folks who are still willing, if not proud, to give their names to the cause of stridently and militantly destroying Newburyport’s hope of having a Local Historic District.  (They also, as I understand it, complain loudly to their city councilors, the mayor, the press, when a pro-LHD human being loses it, the person in question, I believe, has been identified.)

Do I have first hand experience with the hatred of the ideological Right?  Yes.  Do I know that they will deliver on their promise?  Yes.  Does that make me worry about Governor Romney’s pick for Vice President, that it isn’t all fluffy talk, that delivery of this far right ideology is very real?  Yes, you betcha.