, Newburyport, MA


April 9, 2012

No to LHD; update zoning bylaws

To the editor:

I would like to share with you a few thoughts regarding the LHD dispute.

Firstly, comparing High Street to Chestnut Street in Salem is not a helpful exercise. Chestnut Street was built in its entirety during one architectural period. Most of the homes are Federal period and of brick construction. Only on lower Chestnut Street have some Greek Revival homes been built. Chestnut Street is only three blocks long and as such it is a museum-quality time capsule of its era. There is only one 20th century home on the street and it is a brick reproduction of the "Derby House" that sits on Derby Street overlooking Salem Harbor. In other words, Chestnut Street was a historic district before there were historic districts. It is set aside from the main stream of traffic and many visitors and residents alike have never seen it. Everyone who visits or lives in Newburyport uses High Street on a daily basis.

High Street is 2 miles long and covers 300 years of architecture: pre-1800 Colonials, circa 1800-1820 Federal homes, circa 1840 Greek Revivals, Victorians, Classic Revivals, Cottage style, Four Square, Tudor, Reproductions, 20th century homes and newer. Imagine how dull High Street would be if it had been frozen in time as Chestnut Street was.

I do not think that we should fear change. I know of one home on High Street that began life as an 1840 twin chimney Greek Revival. In the 1880s, the house was updated to rather elaborate Victorian taste with so much "gingerbread" on the exterior that is rivaled the "Wedding Cake House" in Kennebunkport. Today with the gingerbread gone, the house appears as a lovely Victorian quite at home alongside its Federal neighbors.

If supporters of the LHD are disappointed with the new construction on the Woodland Street corner, they may have grounds, but an LHD would not solve that problem. The problem of small lots and the large massive building can only be solved if and when the mayor and City Council form a committee to review and update our current zoning bylaws. These bylaws are 40 years old and have been obsolete for at least the past 25 years. They were old Beverly bylaws when we adopted them in 1972. This will only get done if your readers demand it of the elected officials. We won't have leadership unless we require it.

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