There is a necessary project that has to be done SOON. The boundaries of the National Register of Historic Places must be settled in an iron-clad way. There are so many ramifications and economic benefits for those who lie within the borders of the historic district not to even mention the state and federal tax issues. Therefore a line in the sand has to be settled.
Right now, the planning office has had a policy of refusing to settle the exact borders. The department consistently publishes drafts of the area without settling on a final map. Probably, in this way, potential lawsuits and court cases can be avoided by creating a “fuzzy” border but it also can create a proliferation of them if someone on the line needs to claim national register status.
The border needs to be settled because many preservation grants require the National Register status. In addition, the first requirement of a local historic district is that it must be a National Register of Historic Place. Thorny issues of who is on one side or the other are going to cause heartaches down the road. There are sensitive issues of “grandfathering” when it comes to building codes. According to the Massachusetts Building Code, historic homes and “contributing” historic homes can be exempted from many code requirements.
It is clear that whether your house is built in 2008, 2009 or in 1769, every house “contributes” toward the Newburyport Historic District. There is a letter sent from the Massachusetts Historical Commission filed in the Planning Office that so declares that every building inside the register is an historical structure because it contributes to the entire national register district.
The city in cooperation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the City Solicitor and the Planning Office; need to settle once and for all the boundaries of the Register’s Newburyport Historic District and to create clear markers so that citizens know their benefits and rights under this district.
This “little” issue needs to be settled before it becomes a “large” issue.
– P. Preservationist