To the editor:
Last night (March 26), I attended the second so-called informational session sponsored by the Local Historic District Study Committee. One of my questions pertained to the permitting process should this LHD be adopted. I began by expressing my concern that the LHD commission will not be governed by specific rules and regulations, as is planning and zoning, whose regulations are clearly spelled out and we know what to expect before going to them. Based on the proposed guidelines and the proposed ordinance, it seems to me that the LHD commission will base their decisions on opinions, on aesthetics, "what fits." They repeatedly used the terms "what fits," "good blending" and "good match." These are subjective terms and not specific rules and regulations. A "good blending," according to whom?
A gentleman asked which commission takes precedence, zoning or the LHD. Chairman White stated, "One does not trump the other." I was surprised by that answer because in previous sessions, we have been advised that we must to go to the LHD commission first to have a "conversation," to find out what is expected of us before going to any other city boards, and so I questioned her response. She stated homeowners don't have to go to them for permission first, repeatedly dismissing my concern and pointing to the draft ordinance.
The draft ordinance states:
7 — Alterations and Construction Prohibited Without a Certificate.
7.1 "Except as the Ordinance provides, no Building or Structure or part thereof within a District shall be Constructed, Moved, or Altered in any way that affects the Building or Structure as visible from a Public Way, unless the Commission shall first have issued a Certificate of Appropriateness with respect to such Construction and Alteration."
Sections 7.2 & 7.3 state "no building permit shall be issued by the City or any department until a Certificate has been issued by the Commission".
Chairman White complimented the homeowners of Newburyport on the way they have cared for their homes for the past 300 years, and now they are saying, "Thanks, we'll take over from here."