I was filming at the public hearing and was very pleased the majority understand reality and are truly concerned for their community. But to realize that a sizeable minority want to turn Newburyport into a Massachusetts’ version of Seabrook is very sad.
I kept asking myself, “What motivates them to live here?”
And what I have come to the conclusion is, they want the safe, high quality of life that the historic preservation of our downtown provided but don’t want to ‘pay’ for it by having restrictions on their houses. These are the citizens who constantly complain about our visitors who would love to live here* and are responsible for our property ‘values’.
When homes are demolished, they simply blink and go on that it doesn’t matter.
When developers pour in and teardown our historic homes, they simply deny it isn’t happening or as one commenter said Thursday night, “I frankly see no need for an LHD – there is no threat!” This as an historic house in Newbury was torn down for a swimming pool and as historic homes on Hancock & Pine Streets were destroyed so the developers wouldn’t have to ‘fuss’ with the old buildings and plans to ‘infill’ along High Street are quietly being pushed through our planning office by property owners and developers.
When concerns for the entire community are brought up, they withdraw into their castles and haul up the drawbridge and cry out, “I am the only concern here”.
When the cry is to preserve the city, they respond, “it will all be changed anyway and we won’t care as we will be safe in our ‘homes’” (The image of Nero fiddling while Rome burns comes to mind!)
Our founding fathers knew classical Western Civilization, knew Plato and knew Aristotle and knew the history of Greece and Rome. They fashioned a society in which there were property rights but there were also obligations to the community and to family and to God.
Such selfishness as was demonstrated on Thursday would have men like Jefferson and Madison crying for floggings. Such lack of community concern would not have been tolerated.
Newburyport is in grave danger. The source of our economic rise ceased in 2005 and we are laid bare to a host of developers with plans to make a profit on Boomtown Waterside. If you want to know what we will be left with, visit their past handiwork in Marblehead, Plymouth, Swampscott and Salem. When self is the only motivator, the community as a whole suffers.
Citizens need to rise up and save Newburyport before it is too late – only then will the scales fall off the minority of our civic leaders who refuse to admit we are in trouble.
* The rumor is that Newburyport is filled with ‘wealthy’ people. I wish. As Councilor Herzog has pointed out, 40% who live here are below the Federal poverty line.