I get all geared up about an issue or an event and then it occurs and the next thing that happens, I am on to the next issue or event. I just assume (most incorrectly) that everyone has heard what has happened or is about to happen.
Of course, I forget we’re dealing with the Daily Snooze – they have been trying to manipulate the information feed for decades so it conforms to their “accepted blueprint”. Unfortunately, it works or they wouldn’t be doing it. Whole movements can be proceeding in town but nary a word in the paper of record.
But for the readers of this post, who really want to know what is going on in town; you deserve better.
So, here is, as Paul Harvey used to say, “The rest of the story” or in reality, since some issues in this town never seem to die, the “continuing story”.
The Solar Farm in the Common Pasture
The Newbury selectmen voted against the measure and the Pikuls have filed an appeal. But local citizens of Newbury have filed their appeal also. They have been joined by two powerful groups: The Audubon Society and the Massachusetts Association of Conservation Commissions (MACC). The hope is to justify a MEPA review of the Common Pasture. If this occurs, a wider concern that includes the historic nature of the area plus its impacts to the region (Such as flooding, tourism & wildlife impacts) will be able to be included when reviewing this project. Legal challenges are costly so concerned citizens are organizing a fundraiser. More on where you can contribute and further developments will be in a later post. As for Newburyport, it is important that our Common Pasture is preserved. It would be like Nantucket finding out that offshore drilling and a refinery were being considered in the ocean surrounding the island. Not a direct threat but it would desolate their tourism and the natural habitats. So too, our “island” would lose its luster if our historic setting was lost.
The Demolition of 17-19 Bromfield Street
Newburyport is now a boomtown. I invite any reader to look at the assessor’s historical data on the properties located in the Newburyport Historic District. In many cases, the profit margin over the years on many homes is now approaching 100% to 200% and more. Worse, the newcomers have a driving thirst for a “gated” community in which all the homes are high-priced real estate. Yet if you look on any given street, we have a beautiful mix of little homes and big homes making us an affordable place for many tiers of income. A healthy, rich community of middle class, poor, rich and senior citizens rubbing shoulders with each other and providing a diversity of lifestyles and viewpoints. I know that if the banks and real estate developers, and many in city hall, would have their way; the middle class and the poor and the seniors on fixed incomes will have to move elsewhere. (Which would include my wife and I as well as most of my readers.)
No better demonstration is the new argument presented to our volunteer boards: the Planning Board, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Historical Commission. Disregarding the historic nature of these antique homes; the major argument is that they are ‘unappealing’, too small, aesthetically “dinky”; and thus must be torn down to allow for grander homes. Such a jaded viewpoint was displayed by our long standing architect, Jonathan Woodman. He presently rents out the small Silas Lunt House. It is in large part structurally sound and is historically significant; but he still wants to tear it down so he can maximize the property with yet another grander home. If he condo’s the property, he can get around $600,000. But with a brand new, grander, home; he is looking at a million plus. Yes, it’s all about the money and the community be damned! I assure you, we will see more and more attacks against our small buildings in the historic district as they try to remake our city into an exclusive community! (They’ll keep the downtown intact for the “tourists”)
The clock started on tearing down this house last week – and Jonathan Woodman cares nothing about his legacy or about our communities’ preservation. He didn’t even show up for the public hearing at the Historical Commission. “Let’s get the clock running” he demanded.
The Issue of the fate of the Brown School
Zeus gave Pandora, the first woman, a container with the strict instructions that in no circumstance was it to be opened. Driven by curiosity, she opened it and all sorts of evil spread upon the earth. When she tried to put the evil back, she could not. Mayor Holaday has coincidentally mirrored Pandora. But instead of curiosity, she was driven by good intentions and has unintentionally awakened a fury that is starting to spread. That fury will generate a lot of evil and silliness and in an election year; a whole lot of political grandstanding. I went to tape last night the exploration on the future of the Brown School (and that includes the ‘playground’ section) but instead it was an excuse for candidates to flex their political muscles and make a good show.
The neighbors just want their playground back. Period. Turns out that a whole lot of other ramifications have been generated. The fate of the land, the fate of the building, the fate of the playground and the park around it. Included were city and school budget demands, general playground standards, infrastructure and maintenance issues, etc. Not present in the room were the banks and the developers. And of course, the true evil – zeal without knowledge. Now just today, we have an editorial that confuses affordable housing with low-income housing! Some last night asked, “What is affordable housing?” As Alton Brown says on his show Good Eats; “Oh Bother!”
Education and many public meetings may help straighten out the future fate of the Brown School and the Playground but I am afraid it is not enough to put the evil of hysteria and political demagoguery back into ‘Pandora’s Box’.
I’ll at least start with some discussion on the city’s options for this site in a later post.