My first impulse was to label this post, “The ZBA okays the Disneyfication of Newburyport”, or “Zoning okays the destruction of the Newburyport Historic District” ; but in truth the ZBA did a big favor last night.
Jamie Pennington, always known for his hostility (okay, pure indifference) toward historic preservation paved the way to demonstrate why Councilor Eigerman’s ordinances are so badly needed in our city.
He gave a very methodical reason for allowing the destruction of a priceless, historic home that is irreplaceable:
The [new] building does not detract or add to the zoning situation.
The creation of additional parking is a plus.
The increase in setbacks in back add to the purpose of zoning
The integrity of the street is not negatively impacted.
But his main thrust was,
Authenticity is not in their purview, nor is the structural integrity of the building, nor is its historic significance.
Aside from the point that most of these points could be definitely disputed, the point is the ZBA has a narrow path to pursue when it comes to zoning issues.
This means that more developers will buy historic properties, seek to demolish them automatically and replace them with high profit (for them, not the buyer), planned obsolescent, cheap replicas that will further diminish the desirability of Newburyport.
And they will keep on doing it until the City as a whole decides to stop the destruction of our community.
Regardless of the comedic troupe that we saw parading around at the public hearing; houses are being demolished, buildings are being gutted and developers are swooping down upon us; and the Historical Commission and the ZBA and the Planning Board are largely unable to stop them.
We need a Newburyport Local Historic District and as the Preservation Trust has called upon the citizens of the city to “Get on Board”, the Local Historic District Ordinance is not dead – keep in mind Jared Eigerman’s measures are interim.
The real solution is to educate the citizens of Newburyport, to aggressively publicize the atrocities that are going on in the city and to not quit. Winston Churchill who knew when it was the bleakest also knew that there was a light at the other end of the tunnel even when others told him to throw in the towel:
“Never, Never, Never Quit.” – Winston Churchill
We have had abutters shamefully applaud the destruction of our city mostly out of sheer ignorance. We are in an era where people willingly do not want to know the truth.
Keep hammering them until they are forced to face it. Then offer them the clear solution: historic preservation.
PS. The members of the Preservation Trust have been nothing less than magnificent in their standing up at these crucial hearings. As long as they understand these are skirmishes, not even battles that are part of a larger war; then they won’t be discouraged….and will be unbeatable in the end. Fight on!