BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
---- — NEWBURYPORT — An 11th-hour amendment led the City Council last night to approve the first reading of a local historic district of just eight properties on High Street.
But the matter of a larger LHD encompassing a broader section of the community, which has been on the table for years, is stalled, at best, for now.
The new abbreviated district will be called the High Street Historic District, and city officials say the owners of the eight homes it encompasses had requested that they be included in such a protected sector.
It will include residences on the “ridge” on High Street, running from numbers 79 to 93 or from about State Street to Wills Lane, city officials said. The proposed district contained more than 800 properties at one point.
However, several issues such as a demolition delay and preservation protection for the greater downtown still remain on the table.
“We will be involved in more discussions when we come back after the new year,” City Council President Tom O’Brien said. “That includes the downtown and demolition.
“The residential sector got smaller (in our discussions) because those who wanted a larger district knew they didn’t have the votes.”
The vote in favor of the High Street Historic District was 9-1. Councilor Dick Sullivan Jr. voted against it, and Councilor Brian Derrivan was out of town on a business trip.
Councilor Greg Earls, whose district represents that sector of High Street, had introduced the amendment enabling the district.
“These homeowners know what they are doing,” Earls said. “They want a district and it’s appropriate that we enable it to happen.”
After the meeting, Mayor Donna Holaday said, “Both sides walked away with something, and I’m pleased that the work of the volunteer (LHD study) committee resulted in something.”
She said that councilors felt strongly about this issue — both for and against — and that they were able to agree on the compromise.
Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives said she supported the measure, but added she had been prepared to continue discussing the residential question at the council’s proposed meeting in late December.
But she said that the residential question had become moot, and councilors had indicated they would not be meeting again until early January due to conflicts surrounding the holidays.
“So this is my last meeting,” said O’Connor Ives, who will leave the council for a seat in the state Senate at the first of the year. “It’s been illuminating, fun at times, and I think we all saw the beauty of democracy.
“I have enjoyed working with everyone on the council and here at City Hall, and as councilors, I know we have put in many hours together. Thank you.”
O’Connor Ives received a sustained standing ovation following her farewell to the council.