BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The City Council’s first meeting of the year Monday night addressed numerous matters of business, including leadership positions for the 2013 year.
Thomas O’Brien was reelected as council president. He is the Ward 6 councilor and this is his seventh term on that body.
The following are committee assignments made by O’Brien: Budget and Finance, Ed Cameron, chairman, Ari Herzog and Robert Cronin; General Government, Thomas O’Brien, chairman, Dick Sullivan Jr. and Donna Holaday; Joint Education, Allison Heartquist, chairman, Greg Earls and Dick Sullivan Jr.
Also, License and Permits, Greg Earls, chairman, Barry Connell and Steve Hutcheson; Neighborhoods and City Services, Barry Connell, chairman, Allison Heartquist and Ed Cameron; Planning and Development, Tom Jones, chairman, Barry Connell and Brian Derrivan; Public Safety, Bob Cronin, chairman, Dick Sullivan Jr. and Brian Derrivan; Public Utilities, Ari Herzog, chairman, Steve Hutcheson and Dick Sullivan Jr.; Rules Committee, Bob Cronin, chairman, Tom Jones and Thomas O’Brien.
In another matter involving personnel, councilors elected former councilor Steve Hutcheson to fill the post vacated by Kathleen O’Connor Ives, who has moved on the state Senate.
Hutcheson received votes from the following; Cameron, Connell, Cronin, Heartquist and O’Brien. Robert Rothberg got votes from Herzog and Earls, and Larry Giunta received support from Derrivan and Sullivan. Jones initially voted for Ralph Orlando.
Those appearing at the meeting to speak on behalf of themselves were Paula Hudson Chambers, Giunta, Hutcheson, Rothberg and Russo. Mary Zinck wrote that she was unable to attend the meeting; Jones read a statement from Orlando, who was also unable to make the meeting.
After the vote that provided Hutcheson with a margin of victory, Jones moved that the election be unanimous - by acclamation.
Also on Monday night, the proposed Local Historic District was voted down decisively and now it is unclear what will happen about preservation planning.
O’Brien said after the meeting that an ordinance to regulate the demolition of historic buildings might be addressed by the council in coming weeks.
Also, a measure to provide preservation controls over the downtown commercial sector could appear on the council agenda.
Both matters had been championed by O’Connor Ives and could come up again, say councilors.
The defeat of the LHD came as a disappointment to many residents who had supported it for more than a year.
Councilors at their last meeting in 2012 had downsized the proposed district to include just five structures on High Street, between State Street and Wills Lane.
As a result, several leaders of the pro-LHD forces Monday night said they were withdrawing their support because the district was so small as to be ineffectual. Also, they objected to new wording that made the City Council the organization that would hear appeals to the LHD Commission’s decision.
Jared Eigerman, a onetime spokesman of Citizens for Historic Newburyport, expressed frustration that there had been no public debate between supporters and those who opposed the LHD.
“Why should opponents debate us when slogans worked so well,” he asked rhetorically Tuesday. ‘They want to tell you how to maintain your home.” I read (that) in countless letters to the editors, even though the state law forbids using LHDs to regulate ordinary maintenance, repair or replacement.”
Eigerman added, “I also read, ‘This will cost homeowners thousands,’ yet state law requires cities to give exemptions for financial hardship.”
Regarding the future of the LHD Study Committee, Mayor Donna Holaday could not be reached for her views on the matter yesterday.