The basic gist of Thursday night’s demolition public hearing all had to do with spite.
As much as I keep up on things going on in town; I simply can’t be at every committee or commission hearing or hang about city council meetings to catch the real politics in the hall. So I went to this particular hearing sort of blind. From that perspective, I was glad I did. Instead of getting up and pontificating, I asked questions. Glad I did. In fact, I have been to many meetings where the politically innocent have decided out of civic duty to show up. Innocent yes but smart enough to ask questions. And in such events, they become little Socrates opening up great understanding for everyone attending!
Apparently, the applicant went for a 6C permit. For the right to have a second residence on a lot; the owner must show public benefit by providing affordable housing (or money for affordable housing); open space or provide a preservation easement on the property if it is historic in nature. It was agreed that the entire property would be under a preservation easement that would only cover the exterior of the buildings.
In this case, the Planning Board had to be convinced, not the Historical Commission. The applicant was approaching final conclusion and everything looked good at one Planning Board Meeting and then at the next, the entire arrangement was withdrawn. Apparently the Historical Commission has been thrown in the mix of anger when it was the PB who was causing the roadblocks. (The HC was VERY happy she was pursuing the easement.)
I might add since I saw her house myself when the Gubernatorial candidate, Baker, had visited Newburyport. The exterior was nice but the interior is spectacular. So this wasn’t even about historic preservation!
Now if she gets her demolition permit and after a year, tears down this spectacular carriage barn; she will have the right to rebuild on that footprint, a new structure.
But if she wants a 6C permit, she will have to provide affordable housing, open space or an historic easement. Still. Knocking down a complimentary historic building will cause her to have a hit on her property value and if she puts in a ‘garage’ she loses out on the second residence.
I think the right thing to do is return to the Planning Board and finish the process. Everyone, anti-historic preservationists and pro-preservationists have said that the ultimate goal is to put preservation easements on our historic houses. All she proves by demolishing the carriage barn is proving everything the preservationists have been saying.
She should protect her fantastic house and be the leader that shows others the way.