Discussion of an ordinance to create a Local Historic District continues this week, and the principals seem far from agreement.
Lest it seem like this is a never-ending issue, the LHD only comes up about every four decades. The city voted in 1971 against one and if this proposal goes down, it might not surface again for many years.
Last week, City Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives released a proposal that is a compromise between approaches favored by the pro-LHD crowd and anti-LHD forces.
Awkward reality: Neither side likes her version. O’Connor Ives, a lawyer, calls for a smaller local historic district than the one proposed by the Local Historic District Study Committee. Also, she calls for longer waiting periods before antique structures can be demolished.
When it comes to citizen involvement, it’s difficult to invoke the term “compromise” to the LHD issue. The “Say No to LHD” adherents don’t seem to want any new regulation at all.
That said, O’Connor Ives’ proposal will be discussed Thursday at 7 p.m. at City Hall at a joint meeting of the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee and the Committee of the Whole.
It is a public session, yet at this point Your Scribe asks, Is there such a thing as too much input from the public? Too much democracy?
There have been a half-dozen public meetings to discuss the ordinance created by the study committee. The study committee itself has hosted more than a score of sessions, at which the group permitted discussion of possible changes.
At those past sessions, members of the public were free to ask questions and/or object to new regulations being contemplated.
For many months, residents have weighed in on matters ranging from fence design to the concept of property rights of homeowners.
Lengthy discussion of the LHD, which will be decided by the council, doesn’t appear to have changed many minds.
Will councilors make forceful suggestions at this Thursday’s meeting? Will a councilor utter a declarative sentence such as, “Historic commercial buildings need some protection” or “We must reduce the waiting period for contractors and builders.”
With the exception of O’Connor Ives, councilors so far have said little.
Actually, several councilors, including Bob Cronin and Tom Jones, have appeared disconcerted that the Planning and Development Committee was in control of the discussion of the study committee’s proposal.
They indicated that those on the three-member committee have had more chance to make suggestions than did the other councilors.
But councilors “of the whole” (read: everyone) will have the opportunity to make suggestions on Thursday.
In other municipal developments, tonight’s scheduled meeting of the Waterfront Trust has been canceled.
This panel is currently seeking to identify a new vessel for summer whale-watching pursuits. However, Harbormaster Paul Hogg says that no action has been reported in the search to replace the Prince of Whales.
That 100-foot craft recently chugged out of port after being sold to a company in Florida. For many summers, it had taken close to 10,000 visitors to view whales in the open Atlantic.
Riverfront veteran George Hilton, whose company runs the whale-watching business here, has said he wants to replace the Prince of Whales, but thus far no boat has been identified to do that job.
The following meetings are scheduled this week and are open to the public:
Joint Subcommittee of the Whole School Committee, 5:30 p.m., room 118, Newburyport High School, 241 High St.
School Committee, 6:30 p.m., room 118, high school
River Valley Charter School Committee, 7 p.m., 2 Perry Way
Waterfront Trust, 7 p.m., canceled
Finance Subcommittee of the Whole School Committee, 7:30 a.m., school offices, 70 Low St.
Bresnahan Qualification Committee, 4:30 p.m., 70 Low St.
Conservation Commission, 6:30 p.m., City Council Chambers, City Hall, Pleasant Street
River Valley Charter School, 6:30 p.m., 2 Perry Way
Solarize Newburyport, 3 p.m., City Hall
Senior Center Building Committee, 5 p.m., second floor, City Hall
Planning Board, 7 p.m., City Council chambers
Licensing Committee, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.
Ordinance Review Committee, 8 a.m., City Council chambers
Superintendent Goals Committee, 9 a.m., school offices, 70 Low St.
Commission for Diversity and Tolerance, 4 p.m., City Hall conference room
Planning and Development Committee, Committee of the Whole, 7 p.m., City Hall
Open Space Committee, 7 p.m., police conference room, 4 Green St.
Historical Commission, 7:30 p.m., City Council chambers
Dyke Hendrickson covers Newburyport for The Daily News. He can be contacted at 978-462-6666, ext. 3226, or firstname.lastname@example.org.