Now, normally when I peruse the pages of the Daily News, I get blurry-eyed when I come to the Amesbury section.
The last time I even let my eyes glance at it, I had noticed the dire straits of the little church that faced the Merrimack. As part of one of New England’s most iconic sites, a loss of this building and the marring of its little neighborhood would definitely reflect badly on the overall enhancement of Greater Newburyport. I am still keenly keeping tabs on the fate of this church and will post eagerly for its preservation. And of course, I am intently monitoring Amesbury’s Hines Bridge and the Whittier Bridge and the overall connecting bike paths.
But today, I was bright eyed and read intently the article, “complaints over ‘historic’ home values lead to special meeting”. Now, as much as Amesbury would love to be like Newburyport, they never will. And, to be fair to the residents of this ‘town’, they may not necessarily want to be. The way I see it, Amesbury is ‘Every American Town’ while Newburyport is much closer to a small ‘European City’. Our historic district stretches from pre-Revolutionary all the way into the 1950’s while Amesbury’s fabric is largely based on the Industrial Revolution. That is why ‘Victorian’* homes are prevalent throughout their neighborhoods. Whatever was earlier was mostly plowed under long ago.
They do have a scattering of early 19th-century structures. But, they do not have entire neighborhoods that have been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
So, it was of extreme interest to hear that early homes were being targeted for assessor surcharges if the age of the home was rather early. Now, it is true that in a cohesive place like the Newburyport Historic District, historic homes tend to have higher, more rock-solid property values and in general raise those values across the neighborhood. That’s because the entire neighborhood is an extremely desirable place to live. It’s called Q.O.L! Quality of life involves many factors but being in a precious and unique historic location definitely is part of that.
But I have never heard of individual homes given automatic value enhancements just because they are old. Assessors usually have a set collection of factors in deciding tax assessments. Just being real old is not one of them – in fact, the lack of such a regulation can mean being open to interpretation. After looking at the inside of the Swett-Ilsley House, assuming of course it was not a house museum and tax-exempt, I would definitely not increase its value. And that goes for anyone in an historical home who still has original water closets, 1920 wiring and old pot belly stoves. Ouch!
I realize communities are looking for any means to increase their tax rolls but penalizing dedicated homeowners who are choosing the green, sustainable path of preserving an existing and historical home is not one of them.
It’s just one more attack that should not be tolerated.
* There is no such thing as a Victorian Style. Queen Victoria’s long life oversaw such styles as Queen Anne, Gothic, Italianate and Second Empire to name just a few.