, Newburyport, MA

November 8, 2012

A solution to LHD disagreements

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

After having been bombarded with so many letters to The Daily News and property signs littering Newburyport on the LHD, I wanted to introduce a solution that might be more broadly accepted.

I am not a Newburyport resident, but rather one who frequently visits the city and is drawn by all of the wonderful historic architecture. I appreciate the philosophy of both sides in the current fight.

It seems as though all residents appreciate the historic buildings and realize that they are an important factor in the overall value of the city. The question becomes how to best protect this value.

My suggestion is for the City Council and mayor to enact positive motivation that will encourage owners to maintain and upgrade the architectural details of these historic properties. As all must know the maintenance of historic properties is expensive. One can’t replace windows, doors, moldings, etc. with typically available stock merchandise. It costs more — a lot more!

Why wouldn’t it be a great idea to have an appointed professional board approve proposed improvements and at the same time approve funding to defray the costs? After all, if the general public benefits, why should they oppose a helping hand?

My suggestion is not to give outright cash for these projects, but rather to give relief in the form of a tax write-off. Assume a house is assessed for $500K and the approved exterior (only) improvements cost $50K (10 percent of assessed value), then that home owner might be allowed to deduct 10 percent from that year’s tax bill. Only one year, but still a little motivation.

This is just and idea to be tinkered with. It is rather counter-productive to force improvements only to force one’s assessments to climb along with their tax bill. The idea is to ensure that property owners want to maintain the historic aspects of their property.

Jim Chandler