Pivoting Focus

According to the introduction in the Demolition Control Overlay District, the Mayor has charged that it will basically be done away with or stay on but in an amended form when the Master Plan and the city’s re-zoning is complete.

“6. On the 250th anniversary of the setting off from the Town of Newbury of the “waterside” as the new Town of Newburyport, Mayor Donna D. Holaday has directed the office of planning and development to undertake a comprehensive review and update of the city’s master plan and zoning ordinance.

7. Until such comprehensive review and update is completed, there will continue to be inadequate regulatory protections for historic buildings and structures in the city’s neighborhoods. Meanwhile, land prices are sufficiently strong in Newburyport to make it economically rational to demolish and replace historic buildings and structures.

8. Therefore, the city adopts these land use controls for an area coterminous with that portion of the state and federal Newburyport Historic District outside of downtown. As part of the comprehensive review and update of the city’s master plan and zoning ordinance, it is anticipated that this section shall be reviewed, and may be amended and/or replaced by different controls.”

The Master Plan is not just a ‘symbolic theme’ that a city adopts, it is the symphony that all departments and volunteer boards and commissions coordinate their actions and deliberations.      Thus, it is something to be taken very seriously for it will be a guide for as much as ten to fifteen years into the future.      If, heaven forbid, it is pie in the sky or populist in structure or even worse, visionless; the whole fate of the city will be detrimentally affected.

So, too the zoning.       We’ve got a zoning plan that basically would be great in middle America. (Where all the cities seem to look alike, all boxes and rectangles and even their lakes!)       It is obvious that the Grand Wizard of Dark Siders pushed for the city to adopt it back in the middle of the 20th century.     We definitely need zoning that fits a heritage tourism destination like Newburyport so we won’t look like some farm town in Ohio.

These two objectives are very noble and are worthy to be undertaken though the path to their completion is fraught with foes and pitfalls.

The Master Plan seems to be stalled right now as the steering committee has to adjust all the results of the different subcommittees into a cohesive document and to prepare the Plan for public view and vetting.      I can see this being done very carefully and as little in the public eye as possible. (Don’t let ’em!)

The Re-Zoning has barely gotten off the ground.     The consultant, Ms. Courtney Starling with the Communities Opportunities Group, is new to her own company, and Newburyport is not even mentioned on their website as a client; plus the local re-zoning committee hasn’t really been formalized into a cohesive deliberating body.

Thus, it looks like the DCOD and the DOD are going to be around for at least the next two to three years (adding the snail’s pace of government when working on a replacement.)    It will be important for all historic preservationists to study the ins and outs of these overlays and for citizens who care about sustaining a high quality of life in our city to know how it operates.

fish hookThe opposition (those who want to destroy our high quality of life for a whole range of reasons so they can retire in a comfy place far away from here, or at least in Newbury.) want us to live like blissful fishes in the sea.     To only experience later the eventual pain when the nasty hooks tears into our fleshy lives.

Our society only works when the citizen is fully informed as to the challenges and real situations in our community.     Let’s keep informed and involved!

-P. Preservationist

PS. After some deliberative posts on the DCOD; the next important subject will be the Master Plan.        We can’t afford to have elitists, extremists and populists writing this document without some ascent to facts, reality and the expertise of urban design professionals.

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