, Newburyport, MA

November 14, 2012

Making the LHD a win for everyone

Viewpoint Karen Hodge and Patrice Lamy
Newburyport Daily News

---- — There was a great deal of information exchanged last month at City Hall Auditorium regarding the proposed LHD.

It is very clear that each side is passionate about their position. Unfortunately, this has become a polarizing issue for our city. While most of us care about maintaining the historic nature of our homes and town, we disagree as to the value of creating an LHD for Newburyport.

Some thoughts about points raised in the meeting last month follow:

1) The effort that the committee has put into planning the LHD should not be a deciding factor as to whether or not to have an LHD.

2) Although we all value the historic nature of Newburyport — appreciating the architecture of the period homes and the attraction they bring — this is not a reason to let seven unelected people decide the aesthetic appearance of specified citizens’ homes and how these specified homeowners spend their renovation dollars.

3) The fact that there are LHD’s in other communities should not be considered a deciding point. In fact, many have failed due to the type of problems discussed in the meeting.

In the meeting people made suggestions for moving forward. It would be beneficial to the community make this a “win-win” for everyone.

Some ideas follow:

1) Let those people who want the LHD volunteer to put their homes in “Newburyport Historic Preservation Restriction” following the same rules of the currently proposed LHD. This will be a win for the Yes LHD side. This would not necessitate the creation of an LHD, because it would not be a district per se ... these homes could exist anywhere in the city, thereby not singling out a specific neighborhood. Also, if a homeowner decides to sell his or her home, the prospective buyers will know upfront the consequences.

It also becomes a win for the No LHD side because they are not being forced to abide by restrictions made by an appointed board — and their subjective opinions about city location, appropriateness and style.

2) Buyers could be offered an opportunity to put their home in restriction upon deed transfer should they desire.

3) All of the people who have homes built prior to 1930 (who would like to) could put a deed restriction stating that their home can never be sold to a developer who plans to tear it down. (However, a developer could buy a home and renovate it if they desire.)

The bottom line is that there are just too many ramifications to be a Yes or a No. The volunteering approach will allow the community to understand the potential impacts of the restrictions:

a) Prospective homeowners could walk away from restricted homes when they come up for sale

b) They could pay more for a deed-restricted home

c) and they could be delayed in getting approvals for renovations

d) The costs to the homeowner could be significant.

These potential impacts will take a while to figure out and should be figured out before jumping in head first and possibly regretting it later.

This does not have to be an all or nothing, win or lose, us vs. them situation. We can and should try to keep everyone happy in the community.

Volunteering is a viable solution. However, for now, we urge the City Council to vote No on the LHD proposal.


Karen Hodge and Patrice Lamy live in Newburyport.