, Newburyport, MA

January 15, 2013

Newburyport historic district goes down to quiet defeat

Councilors vote down shrunken district


---- — NEWBURYPORT - An ordinance to create a Local Historic District, which was called among the most divisive community issues here in a decade, last night was soundly defeated by the City Council.

The decisive action was taken on the second reading of the proposed measure, and the vote 7-2-1 against the LHD.

In a separate development, former city Councilor Steve Hutcheson was elected to replace former Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives on the 11-member panel.

Hutcheson receive six voters from members of the council, who cast their votes verbally and in open session. Larry Giunta received two votes, as did Robert Rothberg.

Hutcheson had served for six years on the council before being defeated in the last municipal election. He will serve until the next local balloting, which is in November.

The proposed LHD was disposed of with little discussion among councilors, although about a half-dozen residents spoke during a comment period at the beginning of the meeting.

The LHD Study Committee had worked for close to five years to create an ordinance designed to preserve residential structures. In its initial form, the measure would have covered close to 800 residences, and numerous business structures in the downtown.

But at their last council meeting of 2012, councilors passed a first reading that designated just five structures (eight residences) to be in an LHD.

Stephanie Niketic, a leader of the pro-LHD forces, last night said she was withdrawing her support of the LHD because the new size of the district was too small to be practicable. She also objected to an alteration in the wording that put the appeals process in the hands of the City Council.

Jared Eigerman, another leader of those who supported an LHD, also expressed dissatisfaction with the watered-down measure.

Both Niketic and Eigerman live in what would have been the High Street Historic District, which was to cover the following addresses on High Street from State Street to Wills Lane.

The measure needed eight positive votes to pass. Voting in favor were Ed Cameron and Barry Connell; voting against were Bob Cronin, Brian Derrivan, Allison Heartquist, Ari Herzog, Tom Jones, Dick Sullivan Jr. and Council President Tom O’Brien.

Councilor Greg Earls, whose district includes High Street, voted “present.”

O’Brien said an issue associated with the LHD, a demolition-delay ordinance, could be addressed in coming weeks by the council.