Reggie Mariner, whose family has owned the property next to the Berlin Dental Center — formerly the Worcester County Senior Center — for decades asked the council if his boarded-up old house could be considered commercial so that he would only have to replace the front rather than the side windows.
Under the proposed rules, commercial buildings in the historic district that have had covered over side windows facing alleys for decades would be “grandfathered-in” under the new rules. That means they would have to repair or replace any windows that break after the law is passed but not replace those that have essentially become part of the way the building looks from the rear or sides.
Mariner argued that the council should allow this dilapidated property to fall under the business exemption as he expects to make it into a business sometime in the future.
After some debate, Councilwoman Paula Lynch said the building has been boarded up all the way around for at least 20 years and that the owners have sought exemptions of one kind or another as they prepared to consider various rehabilitation projects.
During that time, she said, they’ve built other houses and elected to leave the boarded-up building untouched. She worried that the building would be left to fall apart, succumbing to “demolition by neglect.”
While at first the council considered striking “commercial” from the law to allow Mariner to leave the house untouched on the back and sides, it concluded that the move would be counter to the spirit of the law.
The council eventually told Planning Supervisor Chuck Ward to compose regulation that would exempt a portion of a structure if it was hidden from public view.
Ward will now define “public way” and write the exemption clause but the council signaled that even if it is instituted, it might require more than just the front of this specific house to have the windows restored anyway.
The council expects to vote on the final draft of the ordinance at its next meeting.