NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

January 20, 2013

Heightened energies churning around waterfront's future

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Municipal government doesn’t have a position of “speaker of the house,” of course, but at last week’s City Council meeting, Councilor Ari Herzog emerged as “speaker of the council chambers.”

A tech team had installed a new audio and visual system in City Hall to broadcast municipal meetings, and it hadn’t quite been finalized by the start of the meeting.

Herzog’s mike was evidently the only one working, so those viewing at home had a limited number of council voices to hear that night.

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Tough getting an interview: Your Scribe has interviewed the great (the late Sen. Ed Muskie, tennis star Chris Evert) and the near great (singer Bobby Rydell, congressional aspirant Bill Hudak). But I have been unable to get Black Cow restaurateur Joe Leone or retiring fire Chief Steve Cutter to sit down for the proverbial Q and A.

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A matter before the Historical Commission last week amplified the challenges of preservation. New owners of a small single-family house at 17 Ship St. want to demolish the structure, which commissioners estimate was built about 1750. However, city records put it at 1800.

One neighbor said it was a fire hazard and an eyesore; two other neighbors (architects Ray Dodge and Linda Miller) said it could and should be saved.

The commission declined to approve a demolition and instead ordered a demo delay of one year. The owners must be disappointed, but do we have a case here of “buyer beware?”

Trenchant quote from the commission: “The new owners paid $165,000, which is about half of what a house costs here. Can’t the difference be put into preserving the house?”

Meanwhile, architect Scott M. Brown received a permit to move a brick building (circa 1790) at 2 Mechanics Court (off Merrimac Street, near the Clipper City Rail Trail) so that he can put in eight to 10 condo units.

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