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December 10, 2012

Discussion of NRA proposals for waterfront development this week

(Continued)

Newburyport is considered a city in transition, having gone from a distressed community in the ‘60s to a fashionable location in 2012 to which many potential home buyers want to move.

Indeed, houses on High Street and most residences with views on Water and Merrimac streets are worth at least $1 million (and they look darn good while doing so).

But when the matter of preserving residential neighborhoods reached the council committees last week, a blue collar-white collar divide emerged.

Councilors who ended up opposing it saw the ordinance as an impediment to commerce.

Jones suggested that people who work with their hands — carpenters and plumbers and contractors — must have a chance to make a living.

LHD opponents strongly objected to the creation of a commission that would supervise structures in the district, especially when it became known the panel could include architects, historians, lawyers and preservationists.

There is still a chance that part of the LHD will move forward; one area of agreement seems to be the need for a stronger demolition-delay measure.

And Cronin, who worked with the departing O’Connor Ives on a compromise, said he wants to continue to consider demolition delay, protection for the downtown and perhaps a volunteer historic sector on High Street loosely called “the ridge district.”

Still, the rejection of the proposed ordinance will be hurtful to residents who saw the LHD as a tool with which to maintain the past and enhance the future.

If proponents do continue their efforts, perhaps they will do so with an eye to a (last) line from Fitzgerald: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

The “new” future of preservation likely will begin tonight after the council votes.

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The following meetings are scheduled and are open to the public:

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