, Newburyport, MA

December 28, 2012

Changed minds on LHD approval

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

My wife and I are the property owners at 87 High St. Several weeks ago in the middle of a very busy day, I was contacted by someone (I don’t remember the gentleman’s name) wanting to discuss the proposed historic district in Newburyport. According to this person, a vote was being taken within minutes, and I was told I needed to share my view on the matter immediately. Because I have an appreciation for history and for the work of preservationists, I hastily answered that I would be in favor of such a district.

Now that I’ve had some time to educate myself as to what exactly is being proposed, I realize I must change my original — and rushed — opinion.

Let me be clear: Leslie and I do not support the proposed Local Historic District, and we do not want our property at 87 High St. included in such a district. While we both appreciate the idea behind the proposal, we feel that a designation of this kind robs the individual homeowner of the power to maintain his or her home as they see fit. Is it fair that a homeowner, after purchasing a property and paying the tax on said property, should be robbed of certain freedoms simply because that property sits within the boundaries of a designated district?

Again, I agree with the spirit of this plan; no one wants to see tear-downs of historic homes, nor should we be forced to look at eyesore renovations. But isn’t that the reason Newburyport has a zoning board?

Some years ago, we did a major renovation on an apartment in a historic building in Pasadena, Calif. While we acted responsibly and were sensitive to the original integrity of the building during our renovation (as I believe we were with our home in Newburyport), we suffered greatly at the hands of the building’s board of preservationists. They had been given some modicum of power, and they were hell-bent on using it! While I’d like to think those in charge of your proposed district would oversee that district with an even hand, personal history has taught me that what I’d like to see happen and what is more likely to happen are usually two vastly different things.

Thank you for your efforts to protect the beautiful older homes of one of the most lovely towns in Massachusetts. If you can think of a way of achieving that goal without impinging on the rights of homeowners, feel free to contact us again.

Peter and Leslie Tolan