I heard that only two historic preservationists showed up to speak against the destruction of the home at 33 Market Street. The ZBA ruled in favor of changing the original roof line to a gambrel roof with dormers. This would have been fine if this had nothing to do with the history of the home and would have kept the home well within the architectural integrity of the Georgian Style.
It is a tragedy that after a year’s demolition delay, an authentic home will be replaced with another shallow construct. Tourists won’t know the difference but yet another National heritage building will have been lost in our historic district.
Yet, that is not what really bothered me. It was the lack of voices.
The ZBA is a very political animal. They can hide behind state and local laws and ordinances and have stacks of folders justifying their decisions. But if confronted with public opinion and a room full of determined citizens, they will fold up their hands and rest them on those same stacks and rule based on the input the receive. I’ve seen it over and over again.
Sure, we could appeal their decisions and take them to Superior or Land Court, and it maybe that will be the course in the future as more damage is done to our historic district. But it doesn’t have to be that way if the people of our City rise up and be heard.
Even though the alarm was sent out, just two people showed up. Jerry Mullins and Bill Harris. Both are members of the Preservation Trust which has hundreds of supporters. Where were the rest?
Historic Preservation is more than sitting in closed-in seminars and sipping cocktails at a fundraiser. And it doesn’t take lots of money to make a difference. It takes the sacrifice of time and a dedication to take a stand.
Mr. Harris thinks it’s complacency. He may be right. It often happens in the political arena.
When Reagan was swept into office in 1980 along with both houses of Congress, so many on the conservative side said, “We’ve got our people in place, we don’t have to do anything.” and many went off to pursue other things than politics. Next thing that happened, conservatives started losing seats and it wasn’t long before the other side began to take control again. When Clinton came into office, he had both houses of Congress just like Reagan. The Democrats said, “Now we have our people in place, we don’t have to do anything” and in 1994, the Republicans swept back into office.
In Newburyport, we think that all these people working in the Preservation Trust (The same few people) will protect our City and advance historic preservation. I hear the same sad refrain, “They’re protecting us, we can take a breather.” I assure you, the Dark Side is not. The only way to stop them is for the many to take a stand.
When our city was being demolished, hundreds signed a petition which was posted in the Daily News and the rest is our recent glorious history.
If historic preservationists don’t take a stand, we are going to be facing a very sad history indeed!