Several years ago, the local historic district ordinance was a hotly debated topic. Tempers flared and much acrimony was spread about dividing the community. Historic preservationists warned that if no protections were put in place; the very attractiveness of the city would be lost and developers, lured ironically by the very history of the city; would through the boom-town atmosphere exploit for a quick profit the very assets that made Newburyport the envy of the region and yes, even the state. Unfortunately and regrettably, a sizable amount of citizens and many elected officials chose to walk away from the LHD.
And the very prophesies of doom made by the historic preservationists began to be fulfilled. Ancient homes began to be demolished, or, at the very worst, gutted to the studs and all the distinctive historic features cast away. Worse, there was a total disregard to maintain the very distinctiveness of our city – though our architectural history made us so attractive – developers saw a chance to provide cheap replacements that fed on the ignorance of newcomers. The reasoning was to take the profit and walk away before the new owners realized they had been cheated of the historic value of their homes. The result has been and still is the steady loss of culture and history that makes our city so affluent and attractive!
So what were our city councilors going to do? The city was virtually unprotected from the onslaught. This was when allies on the council sprung into action to work out a solution. The LHD opponents demanded that zoning would be the answer and so taking them at their word a grand compromise was crafted using zoning to accomplish basically the same as the local historic district ordinance. It still has not yet been tested via the courts but the DOD and the DCOD has greatly armed the ZBA and the Planning Board and I dare say the Historical Commission into greatly slowing the attack upon our affluence and our culture.
I have to write this editorial because during the heated debate of the local historic district, on my blog; I labeled Councilor Cronin, ‘Cronin the Barbarian’ because he sided with the opponents. But I am here to say that this label should be promptly shed from him because after the LHD fight was lost; he became a strong leader in insisting in protecting our historic assets through as many means as possible. In fact, he has continued that leadership by presenting the theme of his mayoral race to be the Preservation of the Community. Not just in historic preservation but also in protecting the very culture, and state of Newburyport. That is why it is so striking in this campaign that he has attracted a strong alliance of LHD opponents and LHD supporters. Both sense that this election is over preserving and protecting the Newburyport that everyone so loves.
And which is why I, an ardent historic preservationist, am voting for Robert Cronin for Mayor. A vote for him is a vote to preserve our culture and our history!