To the editor:
In the last year, we have seen a point of view of absolute property rights that is not supported by law and is not supported by facts and reality.
As The Daily News so pointed out, “[There are] many levels of government control over private property that currently exist. Our land is zoned to allow this use but not that use; we can build here but not too close to there; we can’t build beyond this height; we can’t build near this stream or fill in that swamp; and on and on. We are already heavily invested in regulations that are meant to make development more appealing and more orderly … a logical extension of zoning laws, applied to communities where historic buildings are prevalent.”
Not only is this hyper view of absolute property rights not in existence, a loose alliance of anti-historic preservationists have decided that our city should abandon the very thing that saved our city. Once, our community was lumped in with such places as Lawrence and Lynn. It took the courage and vision of many to insist that our political leaders restore rather than tear down our downtown and it took the perseverance of the entire community to collectively restore the homes in the Newburyport Historic District.
But we have a new breed of developers and homeowners who want to cash in on all those years of hard work. Many now want to demolish the historic buildings or to renovate them out of existence. If our community is to sustain its historic neighborhoods that have given us so much, protections need to be put into place so that our most valuable asset is not destroyed.
Our properties, worthless at one time, are now considered valuable due to historic preservation — and it is now this valuable property that sustains our city’s infrastructure and our schools. But what about the 12 other non-historic neighborhoods? As John F. Kennedy paraphrased from an old New England saying, “The rising tide lifts all … boats”; historic preservation in the Newburyport Historic District ensures that property values and a high quality of life is spread out and enjoyed by the entire community.
We need candidates who know that historic preservation is the central key to Newburyport’s economic and regional leadership. We need citizens to vote for those who would sustain that leadership. Electing those who would dismantle protections and thus steer us toward lower property values would send our city down on the long path toward ignominy.
Jerry A. Mullins