A Glaring Contradiction!

I actually don’t think the Newburyport Daily News is aware of the laughable contrast that was presented today in the paper.       Mr. Lodge has devoted himself to a whole series on the environmental threat posed to the communities that have some portion in the Great Marsh.        He’s basing his articles on the contents of a recent report on all the threats to the eco-system.         As President of Parker River Clean Water Association, a group that is involved in preserving and protecting the watershed; I am extremely gratified at the fine job that he is doing.

But in today’s (12/26) paper, is also the following article, Ending the Housing Crunch.     Read it, but basically the bottom line is, housing is extremely expensive in Massachusetts so the solution is to cram more housing in even if it violates local zoning laws.     In order to do it, the state will put extreme pressure on home rule communities to increase density so more buildings can be constructed.      It pooh-pooh’s the negative consequence of such a move.      It calls “Myth’s” that the explosion of increased city services will have a negative effect on the community with high taxes.       It demonizes restrictive zoning as the culprit.

Well, that “myth” is exactly why it is increasingly difficult to obtain affordable housing.   It is not restrictive zoning that is the cause.     It is the very law that is supposed to increase affordable housing that is causing everything to be so expensive.     Already the 40B law paves the way for big-time developers of which there is only a handful to disregard a local communities zoning (and in many ways, disregard building codes also!) and to put pressure on their water/sewer systems and their infrastructure and public services.   These communities are already suffering trying to achieve extremely high standards mandated by the State without providing the funding to achieve compliance.

And then, the State House seals the coffin by the Prevailing Wage Law.     To force them to avoid the cost-saving way of private subcontractors, towns and cities must pay the same high union wages with all the same benefit packages and bonding requirements of Boston unions.    This is why highway projects and other public construction is often double the cost that it would be in New Hampshire.

This is the irony of the two articles.     The Great Marsh is threatened by impervious surfaces and over-building and poor infrastructure planning that the Governor wants to promote!      Somehow cramming people into tighter places will somehow improve our Commonwealth and make it more desirable.       Nonsense!

In politics, you need to follow the money if you want to find the real motive.      The Governor needs lots of funding for re-election and he is counting on the goodwill of a virtual community that surrounds large developers to spread their lobbying influence.        If he succeeds, the losers will, as has already been seen for decades with the 40B law; are local communities and a legion of middle-class facing un-affordable housing.

It is also why large numbers of people are leaving the state, and I might add, continuing to leave the state.     That means less and less of us having to bear a larger load of the taxes of the Commonwealth.     Couple that with the collapse of Obamacare and we stick out like a red-herring with the lone tax mandate compared to surrounding states that don’t have it.     The anti-business atmosphere and high taxes are just some more nails to seal the coffin even tighter.

Regrettably, the working poor, and the middle class are going to be struggling.     But the solution is NOT building huge massive housing projects the likes that we are seeing in Amesbury and in Salisbury.      The residents that will fill these structures will not collectively compensate the community and taxes will begin to rise.

But let’s not leave 2017 in a down note.     Newburyport is actually a fine example of a city that handles affordable housing correctly.      A Healthy community is a mixture of different economic levels mingling together.     A wealthy person living next to a lower middle class and yes, even the working poor – all contributing together for the overall well-being of citizens.       It is the great success found in Newburyport that is causing us to be un-affordable.     Everyone wants to live in such a nice well-balanced town and so the cost is stratospheric.      But the solution is not to build a skyscraper crammed with renters out in the Great Marsh, or build endless tracts of housing covering the Common Pasture with parking lots and chemical lawns!

The key is to shy away from the typical State House solution and to find some creative alternatives to the high cost of living.

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Affordable Housing, Developers, Economics, Environment, finances, Flooding, Health and wellness, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Preservation, Quality of Life, Sewage, Taxes, Watershed, Zoning | Leave a comment

On the Issue of Historic Preservation

Several years ago, the local historic district ordinance was a hotly debated topic.      Tempers flared and much acrimony was spread about dividing the community.      Historic preservationists warned that if no protections were put in place; the very attractiveness of the city would be lost and developers, lured ironically by the very history of the city; would through the boom-town atmosphere exploit for a quick profit the very assets that made Newburyport the envy of the region and yes, even the state.      Unfortunately and regrettably, a sizable amount of citizens and many elected officials chose to walk away from the LHD.

And the very prophesies of doom made by the historic preservationists began to be fulfilled.      Ancient homes began to be demolished, or, at the very worst, gutted to the studs and all the distinctive historic features cast away.       Worse, there was a total disregard to maintain the very distinctiveness of our city – though our architectural history made us so attractive – developers saw a chance to provide cheap replacements that fed on the ignorance of newcomers.   The reasoning was to take the profit and walk away before the new owners realized they had been cheated of the historic value of their homes.     The result has been and still is the steady loss of culture and history that makes our city so affluent and attractive!

So what were our city councilors going to do?     The city was virtually unprotected from the onslaught.      This was when  allies on the council sprung into action to work out a solution.     The LHD opponents demanded that zoning would be the answer and so taking them at their word a grand compromise was crafted using zoning to accomplish basically the same as the local historic district ordinance.    It still has not yet been tested via the courts but the DOD and the DCOD has greatly armed the ZBA and the Planning Board and I dare say the Historical Commission into greatly slowing the attack upon our affluence and our culture.

I have to write this editorial because during the heated debate of the local historic district, on my blog; I labeled Councilor Cronin, ‘Cronin the Barbarian’ because he sided with the opponents.     But I am here to say that this label should be promptly shed from him because after the LHD fight was lost; he became a strong leader in insisting in protecting our historic assets through as many means as possible.     In fact, he has continued that leadership by presenting the theme of his mayoral race to be the Preservation of the Community.      Not just in historic preservation but also in protecting the very culture, and state of Newburyport.      That is why it is so striking in this campaign that he has attracted a strong alliance of LHD opponents and LHD supporters.  Both sense that this election is over preserving and protecting the Newburyport that everyone so loves.

And which is why I, an ardent historic preservationist, am voting for Robert Cronin for Mayor.   A vote for him is a vote to preserve our culture and our history!

-P. Preservationist




Posted in Architecture, Art & Culture, Conservation, Demolitions, Developers, Environment, History, Infrastructure, Local Historic Districts (LHD), News & Politics, Preservation, Preservation History, Quality of Life, Zoning | Leave a comment

Just take a look!

There are two arguments against the garage that postulate the following:    The garage is going to be built in a residential neighborhood and the garage location will severely affect the issue of traffic.         Most citizens in Newburyport, in their busy lives, don’t often visit the Market Street-Titcomb-Washington area; or if they do, it’s to get to somewhere else.    The opponents are hoping that most people will be convinced that this location is a bad one and that some other alternative location or even some other way to find parking should be made.

I postulate that both arguments are bogus.     And all you have to do to agree with me is to go to this neighborhood and look around.        First, let’s deal with the location of the garage.     Walk to the northwest corner of the proposed garage site right next to the bridal shop and take a look.     On any given day, a long line of cars are coming down Merrimac Street under the rail trail overpass and winding up funneling right past you.     Slightly on the right, great numbers of cars are funneling off of Route One and most are proceeding, you guessed it; right past where you are standing.      A garage in this location is literally in a position to be fed not just at peak tourist season but year round.      A perfect location, and not on some side road to be rarely used.     I know that going to Portsmouth myself; I instinctively look for the garage and have to drive around to find it.      Here in Newburyport; there will be no issue.

Second, leaving that standing position, start to walk up Market Street and then cross over to Titcomb Street.    Notice the heavy parking around the YWCA, the parking lot around the Central Congregation Church and the large parking area around the catholic church campus.   Notice the steady car traffic as people race up Titcomb trying to get to High Street.       This doesn’t include St. Paul’s and the busy traffic around Green Street and Summer Street.      The opponents want you to believe this is a sleepy quiet neighborhood that will be first disrupted by construction and then a steady line of noisy buses and vehicles.        My natural question is, “When will they even notice?”

As I repeatedly have asserted, the ONLY issue is the aesthetics.      In a city where architecture and history is our bread and butter; it is important the garage blends into the streetscape and has some measure of connectivity with our Federalist-designed downtown.

As a side-note, the area where the garage will be is practically invisible as viewed at the top of the Gillis Bridge. (Take the time to go stand there!)    Unlike the ghastly Sullivan Building, it won’t harm the historic overall appearance of our skyline.

The majority of citizens in Newburyport have fought for years for expanded park on the waterfront and the garage will be a powerful path forward to seeing what has been sought for over 40 years.     Making it come to pass will be a complicated process and I do trust our elected officials to see it through.

-P. Preservationist

PS.  Oh yes!    Concerning Monday’s vote: thank you city councilors for supporting the garage!

Posted in Architecture, Businesses, Downtown, Economics, Environment, Infrastructure, Landscapes, Parking, Planning, Streetscape, Streetscapes, Tourism, Traffic, Waterfront | 2 Comments

The Infrastructure Queen vs. the Preservation King

I am not sure what to make of this next election.   If you are looking for a nice, clean difference between the two – then good luck.     But then, it never has been that way in politics.     In our Republic, you often get a choice between bad, less bad, a little bad; good, somewhat good and sufficient good.

But in our case as a community; the candidates are actually overshadowed by the larger demographics and cultural shifts going on in and around the city.      Each household represents the attitudes and belief systems of a block of voters.

The real question is, are there enough of a particular block to reach that magic 51%?

We have an increasingly growing amount of people who are moving in that are more affluent, and have an absolute ignorance of our history and the culture that has resulted from it.     They have intimate knowledge of what is going on in DC and the Statehouse; but know little of local politics.    They have well-formed opinions that are cemented on a national level but haven’t the foggiest idea or even have a stance on local issues.      The one plus is that they are here because of our city’s quality of life.     They may not know the details or the origins that created that wonderful environment but they certainly don’t want it to go away.

Then we have the Preservationists.     Let’s just be blunt.      They just like it here!    Words such as ‘wonderful’, ‘restful’, ‘secure’ are just inadequate to describe the city.     Maybe ‘friendly’, ‘family’, ‘accepting’, etc.    Maybe it is just that the low-crime rate and the sense of community set in an internationally-looking setting gives almost a utopian feel to the place.      It doesn’t hurt that we are surrounded by ancient architecture and beautiful ecology.

Unfortunately, this group can often feel like Thurston Howell the third  wondering why the riff-raff are allowed to come into the country club.    They see accommodations made increasingly to visitors while they have to pay the taxes to support the infrastructure and services.     Many come to the unfortunate conclusion of wanting to kick out the unwanted guests to ‘preserve’ all the goodies. (not realizing it’s those increasing visitors that provide all those goodies!)

Putting aside actual facts on any given issue; each candidate has to persuade this amorphous block to vote enough for them to reach a majority.     First, they have to get that newcomer block up to speed (like the NRA is not the NRA; and no; we should not chop all the nasty street trees off the sidewalks and some such silly responses on various subjects.)     Second, they have to fight this Zenophobic ‘Agin’it’ attitude from the second block of voters.

I am just one vote and I have already decided whom I’ll be choosing; but knowing the facts doesn’t help to persuade these two large masses of humanity.      There will be hyperbole, there will be hysteria and an urge to persuade by asserting ridiculous conclusions.

In the meantime, I’m just a spectator – reading the news and watching the events.   I’ll put in my two cents in the hope that I can at least give some guidance before that fateful day in November.

Let the politics begin!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Education, News & Politics, News and politics, Quality of Life | Leave a comment

A New Experience for Me!

The last blog post gave me an unfortunate first experience with Internet trolls.      These bizarre creatures roam about trying to disrupt civil discourse by any means possible.

I realize that many fellow bloggers have removed comments from their sites but I prefer to keep them as far more intelligent people than I can constructively add to the thread of discussion.

But I suspect Facebook groups such as Newburyport Commons or the big NNA are ill-equipped to spot them or have the time to weed them out.

They are very annoying like mosquitos buzzing about the head.   Unfortunately readers can often be sucked in by their phony persuasion and apparent passion and re-direct the whole conversation into some bizarre off-topic.

Sadly, I will learn how to deal with them as they have no decency, ethics, or morality.

As we all know, mosquitos can inflict a lot of damage!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Computers and Internet, Education, News & Politics | Leave a comment

The Rail Trail Roadblock

To give you a visual as to the issue at hand – this is the unused and quite available opening under Route 95 blocked by a property owner for so many years with the vain hope of having a hotel built on his site. (He failed.)

We have a chance of getting this resolved tonight and with caring citizens from the surrounding communities writing letters in the next ten (10) days.

Here are some of the pictures that could be “itched away” within a year!

-P. Preservationist


Posted in Health and wellness, History, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Planning, Quality of Life, Recreation, Tourism, trails | Leave a comment

The Keystone to Everything!

In Bladerunner , one of the synthetic  protagonists complaining of his short life which he can do nothing to fix says, “Ever had an itch that you can’t scratch?”   Well that is true when it comes to a little short stretch of the rail trail network that isn’t finished.

And yet, it is the link that makes everything come together!

The Ghost Trail ends rather unceremoniously at Rabbit Road.       To travel over to the Amesbury Rail Trail, you must travel along a dangerous section of busy Route 110, go under Route 95, dodge cars to get to the Stop n Shop Plaza where  you can finally link back up to the trail.        Your life expectancy is tenuous at best!

And yet, there is a clear opening under Route 95 that just lies there.      To avoid opening old wounds, I won’t get into the particulars but a self-centered property owner blocked the use of this obvious connector.     Could care less about the safety of trail users and their families and blocked the way.        It has taken the advocacy of our local legislators all the way to the State House to unblock the way.

Crossing Diagram

Well, tonight is the public hearing at the Amesbury Senior Center in the Provident Room at 7:00 as they make way to finally promote safety and clear the way.

Busy schedule – can’t make it at such a last minute?       Don’t sweat it.     The following document is available which has a section that you can submit up to ten days afterward with your comments.

People!    Whether it’s the Amesbury Rail Trail, Clipper City Rail Trail, or the Ghost Trail or the Gloria Braunhardt Bike Trail or the Salisbury Marsh Trail or even the Whittier Bridge Trail – it all falls apart unless this one link is glued in!

Take the time to attend or to mail your support so that the trail network that has been in the process of becoming reality becomes a Great Trail Network.

-P. Preservationist

Posted in Health and wellness, Infrastructure, News & Politics, Planning, Quality of Life, Tourism, trails | 2 Comments