Not really. I just titled it to get your attention. I just recently posted an alarming editorial on the fact the new citywide sign ordinance does not have design review anywhere on the sign application. The recent transfer of the NRA responsibility over signs to the City had everybody assuming some kind of control would be sustained.
But when I checked with the Building Department and the Planning Office, I was told the Sign Book was ‘done away with’. Of course, this could be interpreted in many different ways – the old book was sent down to the Library archives and replaced with a new book or it really was simply disregarded and the same rules that would apply to Storey Avenue would apply to the Downtown!
The Mayor assumed the design review would be maintained. The City Councilors and the city council Planning & Development subcommittee assumed it would be retained.
Now it was gone. And then came the alarming Daily News reports about the Fowle’s News Stand. Newburyport Development (ND) can do anything they want.
ND has stated many times they are in support of historic preservation principles but that was when Walter Beinecke, Jr was advising them years ago. He died in May of 2004.
“Mr. Lagasse wanted to restore the waterfront in Newburyport and came asking for advice,” she said. “When anybody younger comes asking you for advice, you are flattered and wish to participate. I think he thought he could help, but I don’t know how much, in the long run, he was able to help.”
Ann Lagasse said she and her husband met Beinecke in the early 1990s when they asked if he could give them advice for the preservation of historic buildings downtown.
They turned to Beinecke after admiring his work in Nantucket and also since he was familiar with the city after working with National Trust for Historic Preservation during the redevelopment of the city decades ago.
Beinecke “decided to come to Newburyport to be our mentor,” Lagasse said, adding jokingly that he sometimes called himself the Lagasses’ “tormentor” since he was such a stickler for attention to detail.
What I am afraid is, “Who is advising them now? Did they take all that stuff he gave them and stick it in a file cabinet somewhere? The recent attitude they have been using in allowing the Fowle’s sign to decay and allowing Cathy’s Kitchen to make the mistake of changing the historic Art Deco lettering indicates they need some guidance. And now there is no protection in the Downtown and the signage is in the control of one man, the Building Commissioner.
Well, I am happy to announce that at least for signage, we have Design Review!
And we can thank Mayor Holaday for clearing up the confusion. She had a meeting with the Building Commissioner and has posted the new streamlined Downtown sign rules which is in a modern and easily read document.
This means that any such signage change to Fowle’s will be appearing before the ZBA. Guess who will be in attendance?
The historic preservationists.
Better than waking up one morning without anyone’s say in the City and seeing an art deco version of 17 State Street Café splayed across the front! It costs a lot of money to open up a new restaurant borrowed usually from a bank that wants steady re-payments. To have angry locals upset and avoiding patronage is just suicide! You’d think with the percentage of profits going to ND, they would avoid that possibility.
Now to save our Downtown from inappropriate buildings and defaced exteriors, we need the local historic district ordinance so we can get back the NRA’s preservation restrictions lost in 2005.