What with Christmas parties and celebrations and time with the family and friends, going to a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on Tuesday night would normally be the furthest thing from your mind. Do it for Newburyport.
The most important issues will probaby be put at the end of the night. Do it for Newburyport.
Both issues that are of crucial importance for years to come are before the zoning board.
First, are we going to tolerate the total disregard for the national treasure that is the Newburport Historic District? Will an individual’s self-interest trump the overall benefit of the entire community? That is what is at stake concerning 33 Market Street. It’s a tiny home and at first glance, hardly something to be concerned with. But its precedent far outstrips its humble appearance. As I walk around the North and South Ends, I have seen hundreds of homes that have been allowed to desecrate the architectural integrity of the homes and the integrity of the historic neighborhoods. It needs to stop now. The National Park Service and the Massachusetts Historical Commission have already noted that over 700 homes have been lost not just by demolition but by destruction of the architecture and loss of original materials. The decision on Tuesday may seem like a small skirmish but its crucial if we are to put a stop to the destruction of Newburyport’s historic district.
Second, we have a blighted mill building that has stood practically empty since the HUD/NRA days of the 70’s. The struggle to push the downtown’s restoration northward along State and Pleasant has been tortuous. Newburyport Five and the Institution for Savings have witnessed the tragic inability to push the wealth of the center of town and move it to the South. We have not only a developer who is willing to work with the Newburyport Historical Commission but has boldly grabbed hold of the 20% tax credits that the Commonwealth and the Feds have offered for those who will improve a commercial building. It means this developer is willing to put historic preservation up right along side of profit. Stonehaven needs a group of preservationists who can not only say nay but will say yay when someone does right.
I will be there. Please be there. If you can’t be there, please e-mail to their zoning administrator, Emily McCourt, EMcCourt@CityofNewburyport.com or write to the Zoning Board of Appeals to Ed Ramsdell, Chair, Zoning Board of Appeals, 60 Pleasant Street, Newburyport, MA 01950.