Her proposal, she said, would create a historic district standard in the commercial downtown area to protect the investment made in the downtown through urban renewal in the ‘70s. And it would also create a demolition control ordinance across the swath of the city already designated as a National Historic District.
“That’s a defendable standard,” said O’Connor Ives.
The order would ask two questions of homeowners looking to demolish a home — is it a historic home and does it have structural integrity?
“They have to show it’s not historical and it’s not structurally sound before they can tear it down,” she said. “I think it can be done. I’m not in a place to vote for the one in committee right now.”
Councilor Dick Sullivan came down against the ordinance as well, even though he supported some protections for the downtown area his father helped restore during urban renewal.
“My main concern is that it would spread out from there,” he said.
Sullivan came down strongly against the ordinance as proposed, which he said was the work of residents looking to change the way things have always worked in the city of Newburyport.
Citing a preference for the strengthening of the city’s demolition delay ordinance and the inclusion of historic areas in a zoning overlay, Councilor Bob Cronin weighed in against the proposal, as did Ari Herzog, who claimed he still had many questions about the plan.
In contrast, Councilor Ed Cameron stood firmly in support of the measure, and retold a story of growing up in Bridgewater, where things were not as well preserved as they were in Newburyport. He suggested that Newburyport is special because people made hard choices in the ‘70s to preserve it, but residents shouldn’t expect those efforts make preservation into the future a foregone conclusion.