BERLIN — If you thought the historic district’s window troubles were over with last winter’s resolution of the Atlantic Hotel window replacement debacle, it is time to revisit that assumption.
During discussion about how to prevent blight by banning homes and businesses from boarding windows for extended periods of time, it was revealed that many of the buildings in the historic district have had rear and side windows boarded for years or possibly decades.
According to Planning Supervisor Chuck Ward, the age and odd size of some of the windows can make them difficult or cost prohibitive to replace. Moreover, the buildings in question have had the boards so well maintained and painted it wasn’t until a recent tour that the fact of their boarding was discovered.
The problem this presented for council members is they were engaged in the first reading of a proposed ordinance that would require all homes with boarded windows and doors to have the barriers removed and to replace any broken windows within 30 days or face stiff penalties.
The proposed ordinance would levy fines of $100 for the first violation and $200 per day thereafter until the building is brought up to the new town standards.
At the council’s request, Ward proposed a solution that would partially exempt buildings and homes in the B-1 Historic District from the anti-boarding legislation. In general terms, Ward said, the historic district includes the swath of land between the Donaway Building on South Main Street and the Taylor House Museum to the north.
Ward said it would be acceptable to exempt those buildings, but in order to prevent the boarding of front rooms on Main Street, the pass would be issued only for rear and side windows. Windows that face the street would still be unable to be boarded up in the long term under these rules.
Short-term window or door boarding, for example in the case of damage or construction, would still be allowed, but a 30 day cap is placed on renovation and construction of this kind. The time restriction would be extendable with intervention of the Mayor and Council.
Since the proposed ordinance’s first reading contained such massive amendments, the revised rules will have their first reading at the Sept. 26 council meeting. If the changes are found acceptable, the council could pass the legislation as early as Oct. 10.