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July 5, 2012

officials weigh in on LHD

Members await controversial proposal

NEWBURYPORT — The proposed Local Historic District has become one of the most hotly debated issues in Newburyport in recent years. A public hearing last month demonstrated there’s significant community interest surrounding the idea of establishing rules for properties in the historic heart of the city.

It will be up to city councilors — not residents — to ultimately decide the proposal’s fate. Councilors will get the final report and proposed ordinance from the Local Historic District Study Committee in the coming weeks. The proposed measure will then be directed to a council committee and it is likely public hearings will be held.

While the vote is still several weeks off, we asked city councilors for their thoughts on the issue and how they plan to vote.

Council President Tom O’Brien, Ward 6

“I am going to vote against. I have lived here for 65 years, and I think the people in the district have done a good job with their houses. This proposed measure would be taking away the rights of property owners, and I think homeowners should be able to do what they want to their house. I don’t think we need it.”

Edward Cameron, councilor at-large

“There are over 200 LHDs in Massachusetts. Some of these have been in place since the late 1950s. Because these districts have been created at the ‘local’ level, each is different — some do not impose what I would call onerous hardships on homeowners and some are quite reasonable.

“Because of the way in which ours is being crafted, I think there will be a positive impact for homeowners in the proposed district and a community-wide benefit for those outside the district. The current iteration is very limited as to the items subject to review; I’m also pleased that the members of any LHD Committee would mostly be from the district.

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