Continuing the Contributing Line of Conversation

As part of the discussion concerning the importance of the National Register, you may wonder how come the Daily News keeps pushing this ‘symbolic’ line of thinking.     From what I can see, they may have gotten it from Wikipedia.     If you know anything about Wiki-facts, they are about as solid as quicksand.     All it takes is to have someone try to pervert the information for their own political agenda by slipping in a doozy or inserting their bias.       The folks at Wikipedia try to stop this the best they can but it’s often much later after the damage has been done.      They simply don’t have the manpower to stop these constant intrusions.

As I have indicated, the National Register is powerful and it all focuses on the ‘contributing’ issue – but what I am about to show you really enhances the power of that designation.


The ‘Contributing’ designation can affect the observance of the Building Code”

In Massachusetts, the State Building Code and State General Statutes recognize the special character of historic structures and allow exceptions from the building code provided the exemptions do not affect the safe design, use or construction of the property. Alternatives may be considered if building characteristics are in jeopardy. Buildings must be listed on the State Register or National Register of Historic Places in order to be considered for an exemption and the State Historic Preservation Office will review proposed rehabilitation work for compliance with established “preservation” standards. A Preservation and Rehabilitation Certificate is issued by the SHPO if the work is done in compliance with standards. A building owner may also seek the intervention of the SHPO in the case of an appeal before a local building official’s decision. 

The ‘Contributing’ designation can even affect the State Fire Code:

The State of Massachusetts’s Fire Marshall’s may also consider the significance of historic structures when reviewing for code compliance. Although the State Fire Code has no particular section that address historic buildings, the Fire Marshall’s office supports the preservation and conservation of significant architectural features when “acceptable” alternatives for compliance exist.

A ‘Contributing’ property can also affect Lead Paint Abatement:

Almost every “historic” house contains some lead-based paint and when the paint deteriorates it can produce chips and lead laden particles that are known to be a health hazard. Lead abatement is the process of safely reducing these lead paint hazards. The State of Massachusetts has extensive information from the Department of Public Health outlining regulations, guidance and proper procedures in lead paint abatement.   The National Park Service also has addressed appropriate methods for reducing lead paint hazards in historic housing in Preservation Brief #37.

A ‘Contributing’ designation can effect and produce Zoning Exemptions:

Whether it is using the grandfather clause or seeking additions to add to historic properties, many zoning ordinances will prevent work if held strictly by the code.     The local city historical commission will work with the planning board and the zoning board of appeals to accommodate an historical property and any restoration or additions made to the building and property.

As you can see, the City of Newburyport’s past history since 1984 of ignoring the National Register has bordered on criminal negligence, and has caused developers and tax-paying citizens un-necessary expense in a vain attempt to comply to ‘code’ when it pertains to an historical, contributing structure.         The end result has also severely damaged our heritage tourism by forcing renovations that ‘gut’ to the studs historical buildings in an effort to attain the unattainable*.     It has also contributed to the conclusion by a growing number of developers of demolishing the historical property so current code can actually be attained. gutting on Fremont Street

In my next post, I will relay certain sections of the building code that specifically designate exemptions and then outline to what extent the code needs to be enforced.

-P. Preservationist

PS. I like the way the Newburyport Current lists the monthly Building Permits.    They show how much money the city gets every time work is done.     The more work needs to get done, the bigger the fee.      Most of it ends up in the City’s free cash.       More on that subject in a later post.

* historical structures to their very core are automatically in violation of current building code.



This entry was posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Demolitions, Developers, Economics, Education, Heritage Tourism, History, News and politics, Renovation, Zoning. Bookmark the permalink.

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