NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 29, 2012

Compromise LHD, anti-demolition ideas floated

The next installment of the debate on the proposed Local Historic District is scheduled for tomorrow night, and one question is whether committee members will offer amendments at that time.

The Planning and Development Committee and the Council of the Whole last week hosted a public meeting to provide answers to questions about the proposed ordinance that would produce a LHD — and a new seven-member commission to administer it.

The auditorium at City Hall was packed, but few actually asked questions. Rather, scores declared their positions and why they were for or against the ordinance.

Your Scribe would not attempt to characterize the political rhetoric, but at times it did seem like Ayn Rand vs. Ralph Nader.

When the committee meets tomorrow at 7 in the auditorium, committee members — not the public — will be speaking.

City Hall insiders say the measure will not get the required eight votes to pass in its current form, and the prospect of compromise is in the air.

One middle-ground position was forwarded by Mayor Donna Holaday, who suggested that the scope of the LHD be scaled back to include simply the local business district.

Another issue that could be the focus of compromise is the possible creation of an anti-demolition ordinance.

Municipal leaders say the community’s authority to prevent the razing of a historic structure expired in 2006, and one can envision a councilor saying, “I don’t like the idea of a commission, but I will support creation of an anti-demolition measure.”

The prospect of an amendment raises the question of which councilor will want to step forward in a leadership position.

The structure of local government here stresses committee work; it is rare when a councilor stands and delivers to outline a new idea or initiative.

Most City Hall observers think that the measure, as is, will be defeated since a super-majority of eight votes is needed.

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