NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

January 28, 2014

Eigerman seeks protection for historic buildings

BY DYKE HENDRICKSON
STAFF WRITER

---- — NEWBURYPORT — City Councilor Jared Eigerman introduced several new ordinances at the regular meeting of the City Council last night that appear to accelerate the discussion on development and parking in the downtown.

Eigerman was a leader in a community group that in recent years was pushing for a Local Historic District. That initiative was defeated by the council after months of discussion.

The Ward 2 councilor is a land-use lawyer and thus familiar with the legal language of urban issues, City Hall observers say.

One initiative the High Street resident has introduced is an ordinance to create an Interim Demolition Control Overlay District (IDCOD).

This measure, if reported out of committee and eventually passed, would “regulate the proposed demolition of historic buildings and residential structures located in residential districts.”

Eigerman’s proposal stated, “Until a comprehensive review and update is completed, there will continue to be limited regulatory protection for historic buildings in neighborhoods ... meanwhile, land prices are sufficiently strong in Newburyport to make it economically rational to demolish and replace historic buildings and structures.”

(Municipal leaders have approved an expenditure of $60,000 for a comprehensive update of the city’s zoning ordinances, but city officials said the review could take nine months to complete.)

Eigerman’s second proposed ordinance calls for the creation of an Interim Downtown Overlay District (IDOD).

The proposal is designed to provide regulatory protections for the historic buildings and structures downtown.

The IDOD would be an overlay district “bounded by High Street, Fruit Street (but excluding the Fruit Street Historic District), Fair Street, a line extended from the terminus of Fair Street at Merrimac Street to the Merrimack River, the high-water line of the Merrimack River, Somersby Landing, Merrimac Street, Market Street, Washington Street and Green Street.”

The measure says the purpose is designed to encourage implementation of the recommendations of the city’s 1991 Historic Preservation Plan, the 2001 Master Plan and the 2003 Waterfront Strategic Plan “to protect the land-use pattern ... and the economic and social heritage of the city through the rehabilitation, preservation and enhancement of its historic downtown.”

Though study in committee will likely bring out more detail, it appears that Eigerman’s proposals address a concern heard during debate of the LHD: that the city doesn’t have adequate ordinances to protect its historic downtown in a rising real estate market.

Eigerman’s third initiative is “an ordinance regarding off-street parking regulations.” This proposal calls for developers to pay more for the creation of parking, especially if a municipal parking facility is developed.

The ordinance would create a Unmet Parking Need Credit, which would be levied on business owners whose enterprises create a need for more parking.

The UPNC fee “shall be calculated by multiplying the number of required parking spaces for the principal buildings, structures or uses to be provided by the rate of $10,000 per required parking space, or at a municipal pricing structure by the rate of $25,000 per required parking space.”

Eigerman’s proposed ordinance states, “The rates are intended to offset the city’s reasonable cost to construct new parking facilities of each type, and to maintain them for a period for 30 years.”

Eigerman said that one of his goals regarding parking is to make sure developers and business owners are helping to pay for the parking that their enterprises require.

The councilor noted that his proposals concerning demolition and historic preservation had their roots in proposals of former Councilor Kathleen O’Connor Ives, now a state senator.

The proposals that O’Connor Ives brought to the council in her final weeks did not win approval.