, Newburyport, MA


February 27, 2012

LHD plan helpful, reasonable

To the editor:

With reference to recent letters about the proposed Local Historic District (LHD), I am writing to offer a different perspective. Full disclosure: I am a Newburyport "newbie" of 14 years and I have lived in many houses, ranging in age from over 400 years to three years, across three continents and several U.S. states. Both my husband and I were born into a post-war Britain where our parents couldn't wait to leave behind their old, drafty family homes and move into something newer. As a result, I grew up with appreciation and respect for old houses, but with little practical knowledge of how to actually live in one.

Rather than seeing the LHD as "the enemy," I look forward to guidance and support to ensure that any changes I make to my own property will not have an adverse impact on the city's historical fabric. I'm sure there are many people like me, who purchase homes in historic areas and want to "do the right thing," but may not be sure what that is. I have read the draft proposals of the LHD study committee and find them reasonable, helpful and consistent with what's already happening in over 240 LHDs in Massachusetts alone. We can all agree that Newburyport's historic homes add unique charm and are worthy of preservation. I for one would like my property rights to be protected by a LHD to ensure we minimize the "chipping away," inadvertent and otherwise, of our historic houses.

A previous correspondent suggested, "Newburyport is not a museum." Today's best museums are dynamic and vibrant places. Our local historic district can embody the most desirable elements of a living museum: attractive to both residents and visitors, generating cultural tourism dollars and stimulating the local economy, while preserving our past for the generations to come.

Gillian Chatfield


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