NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

November 28, 2012

A close look at Ives' proposed historic district

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT - City Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives has about five weeks left at City Hall, but her recent initiative to “broker” the creation of some kind of historic preservation district might serve to keep her visage alive for many years here.

At Monday night’s meeting of the City Council, O’Connor Ives offered two proposed ordinances that relate to preservation and to creating a Local Historic District.

Her goals are not as expansive as those in the proposed ordinance from the Local Historic District Study Committee, and it’s possible that her “LHD lite” will find support among the city’s 10 other councilors.

Her suggestions for two new ordinances, or amendments, will be reviewed by the Planning and Development Committee and the Committee of the Whole on Thursday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m. at City Hall, according to municipal officials.

O’Connor Ives will resign from the council on Jan. 1 to assume a seat in the state senate but Councilor Bob Cronin is a co-author of her new legislation. With this scenario, her initiative likely will move forward if it is not finalized in December.

At Monday night’s meeting, her two amendments appeared to appeal to fellow councilors, many of whom had indicated that they would vote against the proposed ordinance created by the Local Historic District Study Committee.

One of her amendments focuses on demolition delay. The other amendment defines the size of a Local Historic District, and “her” LHD is much smaller than than of the Study Committee.

Regarding a demolition delay, her proposed ordinance states that the building commissioner “shall not issue a demolition permit for a period of 24 months” from the date the permit is requested.

Municipal officials say the city’s regulation in the area of demolishing historic structures is weak. By stretching the waiting period from one year to two years, the ordinance might cool the interest of a property owner who wants to move quickly in razing a house, city officials say.

Also, if a historically relevant structure is destroyed “without a demolition permit having been first obtained,” the city will not approve a building permit for a period of three years.

Her demolition control district runs from about Ashland Street to about Marlborough Street, and from the river to High Street.

O’Connor Ives also has developed “an ordinance regarding historic preservation.”

This would dissolve both the existing Historical Commission and the Fruit Street Historic District, and establish a newly constituted Historical Commission.

This panel would assume the duties as outlined “under Section 8D of Chapter 40 of the Massachusetts General Laws” as well as under home-rule powers of the city.

The most noticeable attribute of this ordinance is that the acreage under the auspices of this Historical Commission would much smaller than the LHD proposed by the Study Committee.

The territory involved in the Ives plan would run from about Fruit Street to about Green Street, and from High Street to the river.

The ordinance states, “The City of Newburyport hereby determines that it is necessary and proper to adopt this chapter to protect the unique architectural heritage of the city; to maintain and perpetuate the established skills of local architects,, craftspeople and tradespeople in the preservation of the city’s historic places and structures; to prevent the demolition of sound historic places and structures; to promote energy efficiency through the adaptive re-use of historic structures; to enhance opportunities for cultural tourism in the city; and otherwise, to further the public welfare of the City and the Commonwealth.”

Municipal leaders say that it is likely that O’Connor Ives, Cronin and others will provide specifics about their plan when it is reviewed in the upcoming public hearing.

Both the Ives plan and the Study Committee version have been assigned to the Planning and Development Committee.

But after Monday night’s meeting, councilors Cronin, Dick Sullivan Jr.,and Brian Derrivan filed paperwork with City Clerk Richard Jones to bring the LHD version out of committee and onto the council’s agenda at its regular meeting Dec. 10.

City officials say it is possible the council will vote on the Study Committee’s version that night. If it is not approved, city councilors likely will be reviewing solely the plan of O’Connor Ives.