More Straw Dogs

I laughed at the positioning of the political cartoon directly above the editorial Viewpoint by Jim Ragonese, “Local Historic District: facts vs. opinions”.      The cartoon shows Lincoln mouthing his famous sayings and then it ends with an Obama caricature saying, “It’s enough to fool enough of the people one more time.”

And that of course is the whole point of Mr. Ragonese’s editorial which I might add is very well written.

He is trying to portray that a local historic district will prevent new buildings constructed, will prevent additions and any improvements and then exaggerated by a rigid, fanatical commission.  

This way people will be again to be fearful through misinformation and then rally against the local historic district expansion.

Fair enough if you want to fool the people but the fact is new construction is quite acceptable inside a local historic district which by the way is just another form of zoning.

He sights the section Ten Top Misconceptions about the proposed Newburyport Local Historic District.     He mentions

Item Number One:

1. Property owners have done a great job restoring their buildings. We are doing a good job without a local historic district.

The great success of downtown and neighborhood renovations from the 1970s to 1990s has created the downside of real estate pressure – too little property in a highly desirable area. For the past decade, the area has experienced tear-downs, out-sized additions, and incompatible buildings on extant lots which have diminished the historic nature building by building, block by block. Some renovation projects have removed or incorrectly restored historic fabric. Newburyport’s nationally recognized architecture now needs additional protection.

But he is hoping that the average busy Newburyporter won’t notice Item Number Three:

3. An innovative development like the Tannery couldn’t be done under a local historic district.


New development is permitted in a local historic district. It need not replicate historic styles, and contemporary architecture which blends with the current historic streetscapes would be encouraged.

And on Item Number Six:

6. A local historic district attempts to freeze architecture at a set moment in time. I don’t want to live in a museum.

Massachusetts has many active business and residential areas in local historic districts. Nearby communities include Haverhill (the Washington Street District), West Newbury (around the Training Field on Rt. 113), and Rowley (the Main Street District on Rt. 1).


He cites all these examples which I as an historic preservationist was deeply in support of and encouraged.     These new buildings if done well, add to the city as a structured whole to increase our property values.

But that wasn’t the intent of his editorial.     His job was to fool people with misconceptions and misinformation.

The blunt fact is except for exaggerated property rights, fear and ignorance, the opposition has little to stand upon except to say, “I’m agin’ it”

The rest of us want a future for Newburyport based on facts and a proven track record.

That way my ‘opinion’ is based on a strong foundation.

-P. Preservationist

This entry was posted in Developers, Downtown, Local Historic Districts (LHD), News and politics, Planning, Preservation, Preservation History, Zoning. Bookmark the permalink.

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