Editor’s Note: As the discussion over a proposed Local Historic District in Newburyport continues through the fall and makes its way to the City Council for final review, The Daily News is profiling several of the principals involved on both sides of the debate.
The following is a look at Dick Hordon, who heads a group (Say No to LHD) opposing passage of a Local Historic District.
NEWBURYPORT — At a meeting of the City Council in late September, Dick Hordon was the only resident who spoke against the creation of a Local Historic District. About 20 were in favor.
Hordon is not alone in his opposition — his committee has more than 1,000 signatures of residents who are on record as opposing a new ordinance that would create an LHD and a historical commission.
But he emerged that night, as he has at numerous public meetings in the last year, as the leader of what he calls a “silent majority” of residents opposing the LHD.
“Not all opponents come to every meeting, but there is a very large number opposing an LHD,” said Hordon, who with his wife, Kathy Mason Hordon, lives at 338 Merrimac St. Both are working against the proposed measure.
Their house was built in 1779, and they have owned it since 1968. The structure would not be within the boundary of the LHD.
Hordon said, “It’s my opinion that the joy of owning my antique home would be forever compromised and overshadowed by the ambiguous rules, regulations and oversight of a committee of enthusiasts who would be forcing their idea of historic preservation on me.”
Hordon is a native of Melrose and a graduate of Melrose High School. He went on to graduate from the East Coast Aero Technical School at Hanscom Field in Bedford.
He is a pilot, a business owner and professionally trained investigator of aviation accidents.
He was owner and president of Air Plum Island Inc., at Plum Island Airport from 1966-2000, and at that time the business owned all of the buildings and some of the land.
Since 1981, he has been president and owner of Four Star Aviation at the Lawrence Municipal Airport in North Andover. He is a member of numerous flight organizations and has been honored in his field on close to a half-dozen occasions.
In the last year especially, he has been publicly opposed to the creation of an LHD.
The Local Historic District Study Committee recently sent its final report with a proposed ordinance creating an LHD to the City Council.
The council assigned it to the Planning and Development Committee, which, with the Council of the Whole, will host a public meeting on Thursday, Oct. 25, at City Hall beginning at 7 p.m.
If voted out of committee, the proposed ordinance will be the subject of public hearings before the full City Council. A super-majority of the City Council (eight votes of the full 11 members) is required for the measure to pass.
Hordon in early October appeared at a meeting of the council, this one attended mostly by residents who are against the LHD, and he handed councilors a binder that holds numerous documents relating to opposition to the LHD.
Inside the binder is a list that includes about 1,000 names of residents who have signed petitions opposing creation of an LHD.
Though the issue is complex, Hordon can be succinct in articulating his opposition. He says, “I believe it (the LHD) is contrary to our freedoms outlined in the Constitution and to our right to own and enjoy our property.
“Regardless of what a handful of pro-LHD supporters say, Newburyport homeowners have been doing an exceptional job of caring for their homes for 300 years.”
City councilors in coming weeks will be asked to address the fact the city does not have an ordinance outlawing the demolition of historic homes. It can delay a developer for a year, but cannot ban such action.
Asked for his reaction if the Lord Timothy Dexter home (a well-known historic structure) were purchased and scheduled for demolition, Hordon said, “I would be extremely disappointed. But the owner would have the right to tear it down.”
Hordon added that preservationists could raise money to buy the property and preserve it if their feelings were strong.
Hordon acknowledged the aviation is among the most regulated businesses of any in the economy.
“The regulations in aviation are for public safety,” he said. “There is no comparison between regulations of private property — private homes bought and paid for by private citizens — and keeping airplanes safe.”
Hordon added, “This (the LHD) is not a political issue. It’s not an issue of old-time residents vs. newcomers, rich vs. poor, etc. It’s pretty straightforward. It’s about protecting one’s home from government intrusion.
“Any perceived problem we have now or will have in the future,” he said, “can be addressed with the regulatory boards currently in place without adding more.”