Discussion on naming the Buena Vista Neighborhood a historic district for preservation efforts has been ongoing in Newport since around 2016.
Though city officials said they are on board with the idea, Newport Manager Tom Fromme most recently said they had encountered some technical issues they must address before anything can move forward.
“We found out that we need to add additional steps, and so it’s not as simple as just saying we’re going to take these regulations, and we’re going to take it in front of HP (historic preservation) for approval,” Fromme said.
Though the Buena Vista Neighborhood is already a National Historic District, it needs local designation for complete protection.
Buena Vista consists of the areas between the north end of West 8th Street, the south part of West 12th Street, the west ends of Brighton and Lowell Streets, and the east side of Putnam and York Streets.
The project was supposed to be presented in front of the Newport Historic Preservation Commission on May 24, but that meeting couldn’t take place with the lack of guidelines for the district that the city needs to set.
Fromme said at their May 22 meeting that they had signed a contract with the company Compass to work on guidelines for the new district and fix existing procedures that the city “never had the resources to deal with” previously. He said they had to create new regulations instead of copying existing ones from the East Row Historic District.
“That’s an established district (East Row) that’s much older and has been operating for many, many, many years, and it would not be the right move to take those regs and try to just superimpose those over on the west end,” Fromme said.
Once the city gets the regulations in effect, Fromme said they also must create an overlay through planning and zoning. He said the question of how someone would know they are buying a home in a historic district came up in a conversation during the process, which is where the overlay comes in.
“We need to have an overlay on zoning to show that this is located in a historic district, so there are extra rules than regular zoning,” Fromme said. “It also gives us a legal ability to impose those rules to enforce them.”
Fromme said the city’s goal is to have the new regulations and zoning done by the end of the year. In the meantime, he said he had issued a moratorium (a prohibition) on demolitions in the west end.
“I do want to state unequivocally, though, that the city is supportive, with the historic expansion—the local district in the west side of town,” Fromme said.
When everything becomes set in stone, Fromme said they would release the plans digitally for people to review, but most likely will not go through more public hearings. As part of the requirements, everyone in the affected area will also be notified by mail.
Newport Mayor Tom Guidugli said historic preservation is something he believes strengthens the city.
“It’s important to know that we’re moving forward in trying to get all the dots lined up to make the west side district occur,” Guidugli said.