NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

November 19, 2012

O'Connor Ives leading the way to compromise on LHD

(Continued)

But the city currently has no ordinance that requires that developers adhere to an architectural style when renovating or building new structures.

New England Development owns close to 50 properties in the downtown, according to its website. The compromise is suggesting that some kind of legal framework be in place when developer Stephen Karp and team begin seeking permits.

Also, the Newburyport Redevelopment Authority plans to put up two commercial complexes near the riverfront. No one knows who the developer will be and what architectural preferences that firm might bring to the construction site.

Regarding demolition of historic homes, the city now has a demolition delay policy, but it cannot prohibit a developer from buying a historic home and pulling it down to build a half-dozen new dwellings.

During a recent public hearing, Bonnie Sontag, a member of the Planning Board, said the Planning Board does not have much power when it comes to requiring architectural style.

Her remarks were lost among more colorful presentations, such as one speaker’s rhetorical allusion to the life and times of Lawrence of Arabia. But if she says the Planning Board cannot act as a watchdog, an anti-demolition measure might be worth considering.

As the City Council gets closer to making a decision, it is evident that residents who have the ear of resistant councilors do not want a commission that passes judgment on a property owner’s desire to change or enhance a residence.

Realtors hate the idea of losing a sale on High Street because a prospective buyer won’t be able to easily make changes; contractors despise the thought of being delayed because a Local Historic District Commission declares that proposed construction does not fall within its sense of tastefulness.

So a compromise might be forthcoming. If an amended LHD ordinance does pass, it could represent one of the final acts of the departing O’Connor Ives.

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