, Newburyport, MA

October 17, 2012

Speak softly and wear a loud shirt

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the editor:

Thankfully we are nearing the end of the controversial LHD debate.

I have written to The Daily News on this topic, sharing my voice of experience in dealing with the Historic Commission when attempting a carriage barn renovation — which was ultimately abandoned. I explained how frustrating the procedure was; how I was batted back and forth between Zoning, Planning and Historical; the mistakes the Historic Commission made in assessing historical architectural features of my barn; the delays that caused me to miss meeting cycles and ultimately caused me to lose contractors, optimal seasonal exterior building conditions and affected my family’s living conditions for months. The exorbitant financial expenses incurred both legally and due to delays. I explained the attempts they made to “suck in” and “lock down” my entire property with the state historical society when I was only looking for a permit for my carriage barn — and then their recommendation that my occupancy permit be contingent upon the state Historical Registration. The assumption of authority and the arrogance of commission members to presume how I am to live on my property and how I am to spend my renovation dollars.

When I read the reports that have been published by staff writers of The Daily News, I am amazed at the same arrogance and presumptions. There is not doubt that the pro-LHD contingent is organized, adamant, vocal, dramatic and energetic; however, it is they who are the minority, not the majority, as reported by your paper. Having volunteered to collect signatures for the opposition, let me explain how easy a process this was. Citizens came right up and asked for the petition to sign once they saw our signage outside selected venues. There was no begging, there was no “misrepresenting” of the facts.

I have a sign on my house.

“Speak softly and wear a loud shirt” is my motto. Kudos to the citizens of Newburyport! Numerous passers-by stopped me in my yard, asked me what it was about, asked me how they could get involved in stopping this from passing. Only one, yes, only one person stopped to chastise me, actually called me nasty names, with no regard for the mailman watching and listening to the entire exchange.

I have researched LHDs on the Internet for months — done my part as a community member to forward the results of my research to my city councilors to show how these LHDs have created huge controversy and been overturned in many communities. How this proposed Newburyport LHD would be one of the largest LHDs ever created! And with a proposed five to seven people regulating what “fits in” what’s “appropriate” for all of us.

So now we come to the crux of the issue. The zoning board regulates what is for the public good with regard to safety, the Planning Board reviews a community’s physical and socioeconomic characteristics to implement a foundation for defining its goals and objectives. Why is there the need for one more entity? There isn’t.

City councilors have an important decision to make. Let’s hope they make the correct one. No!

Jeanne Petrillo