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Reconvened BHB addresses first housing issue in decade

(Oct. 8, 2015) When Berlin’s Housing Board of Review met on Sept. 30, it was for the second time in the last decade, but it was the first time that the board has had to address a housing issue.
The board reconvened in August, elected Tara Downes as chairwoman, and heard a briefing from Planning Director Dave Engelhart on goals the town hoped the board could achieve. At its September meeting, the board addressed a notice of violation on 203 Washington Street.
The homeowner, however, did not show up until the board was just about to adjourn. By then it was already too late, as the board had already made a motion of noncompliance.
“If you don’t show up, the way the code section reads, it means the violation order is in effect,” Engelhart said later in the week. “He has 15 days to finish the work on the house, then fines and penalties start.
“He was given the opportunity to appeal, but you’ve got to show up to have your appeal heard,” Engelhart continued. He added that one member of the board did move to allow the homeowner’s appeal to be heard, but did not receive a second.
“The procedure was followed,” he said.
The housing board agreed to meet on the third Wednesday of each month, although Engelhart is not sure whether a session will be held in October.
When it does return to a regular meeting schedule, he expects it to address a number of “derelict” properties in Berlin.
“I think they’re doing very well,” he said. “They understand the concepts and what their duties are. I’m looking forward to it and we’ve got a lot more to do.
“This is just the first one,” Engelhart said of the Washington Street property. “There are more distressed properties downtown, and that became clear during the strategic planning sessions back in the spring.”
The board’s return to the regulatory scene is the culmination of that, he said.