I see that the “Selection Panel” for the future Newburyport Planning Director is composed of the following:
|Planning Board Members|
|Zoning Board Members|
|Planning Office Staff|
Let’s examine each of the components with the goal of getting a good Planning Director who understands the central issue of historic preservation:
The Mayor, let’s face it, isn’t a mega historic preservationist. That is not a negative dispersion just that there are so many priorities in the city, local historic districts and zoning and preservation may have to compete with all the other horrific issues facing the City.
The Mayor’s assistant, Julia Godtfedsen, has not demonstrated any consideration or sympathy toward historic preservation. If I am wrong on this statement, please show me one or two examples.
The Planning Board has demonstrated some sympathy but has members peppered in who don’t even understand what it is let alone have some opinion on it.
The Zoning Board is composed of some members who definitely care nothing for historic preservation and in fact are hostile toward it.
The Building Inspector if located in any other suburban city would probably be given a medal for doing a fantastic job except here his lack of education in historic architecture in relation to building codes and zoning makes him a bull in a china shop. He won’t want someone who champions the preservation of buildings because he won’t want someone who meddles in his area of expertise.
The Planning Office staff has a long history of not even caring about historic preservation and are legendary for passing out misinformation. Besides, they don’t want the extra work historic preservation demands.
Frankly, what we will get if the Mayor doesn’t step in is a weak leader, timid, un-authoritative and which will fix nothing that is wrong with this city. He or she will be an outsider and developers and homeowners will ride roughshod to the community’s detriment.
Of course, miracles do happen. Al Lavender was a poor mayor. (Not an opinion by the way. Who do you think gave us the landfill?) Yet, he chose Nick Cracknell, one of the best Planning Directors this city has ever had. In his short tenure, great things were accomplished.
One note. We may end up with an experienced, good-hearted person who is woefully ignorant of historic preservation or we may get someone who simply isn’t whom we want. The right and honorable thing is to resist that ‘small town attitude’ and hate the person before they have done anything. We need to give the person a chance and patiently instruct them on the local challenges and issues. Perhaps the most unlikely will accomplish great things
But then, I am an optimist!
PS. Yes, I know about the dismissal today of the DPS Chief. I will not comment because I know nothing about the goings on of the Department of Public Safety or the Sewer Department or the Water Department. The only time I grumble is if sidewalks receive concrete when they should receive historic brick in the historic register area or blacktop is placed on sidewalks when the department’s own policy demands concrete for the rest of the City.