BERLIN – Councilwoman Lisa Hall called, unsuccessfully, for the Town Council to move on the Atlantic Hotel for violations when they replaced their wooden windows with vinyl late last year, saying they had made a mistake to allow the windows to remain.
“We need to own them, correct them and move on,” she said. Hall was worried because of a recent opinion solicited from the State’s Attorney General that said the town might be in grant funding jeopardy for not following its own historic district guidelines.
Mayor Gee Williams said he disagreed that the grant money would dry up in the future.
“They can put whatever conditions they wish to put on those grants,” he said. “It is a local government matter.”
Williams reiterated his position that the law needed to catch up with technological advancement.
“We have a lot of buildings downtown that still need major replacements,” he said.
Ron Cascio, who is a member of the planning and zoning commission, said he was upset not that the hotel wasn’t forced to remove the windows but rather that the mayor overrode the commission’s decision.
Councilwoman Paula Lynch said she didn’t believe that the original decision was valid because, to her recollection the town code states that there must be three positive votes. Since the vote that would have required the Atlantic Hotel’s ownership to rip out the newly restored windows was 2-1, Lynch said she believed it didn’t count.
She suggested the council re-consult town attorney David Gaskill regarding whether and if the vote against the improvement was valid.
Because of Gaskill’s absence the mayor and council provided a fair description of the resolution repealing the town code prescribing for the Berlin Utility Commission rather than a word for word reading. Williams said he welcomed resident participation at the next meeting, scheduled for March 28 to tell the mayor and council their feelings about disbanding the commission.
“[We] invite people to express their opinions and comments to the council,” he said. Williams said the council could choose to pass the ordinance at the meeting or hold off the vote until the April 11 meeting.
Resident Ellen Lang testified before the mayor and council asking them to support a bill before the legislature that increases the tax incentives to make films in Maryland.
“The town of Berlin and all its merchant’s business have benefited from the two features and one independent film that were made in Berlin,” she said.
During the October production of the independent film “The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best” producer Jason Burman said that one of the only difficulties of filming in Maryland was the lack of tax incentives compared with other states that have similar setting options. The council agreed to compose a letter of support and provide it to Lang for delivery this week.
Jazz and Blues Bash
Berlin Chamber of Commerce representative Olive Mawyer asked the mayor and council to support the street closings for the fourth annual Jazz and Blues Bash, noon-8 p.m. Saturday May 7.
She said the notion is to try and keep people in town longer and more engaged. In addition to altering the times to make the event more crowd friendly, the chamber plans to add children’s diversions to keep kids interested during the event’s downtimes.
The council approved the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash with changes as well as the Spring Cruisers event and the Village Fair on May 21 and June 11 respectively.
In his end of meeting comments, Williams brought the council up to date on his meeting last week as a member of the Local Development Council.
“Each community, I think, has its own ideas of how it should use the money,” he said. Williams said he would present the town’s plan to the council and the public at the March 28 meeting and said Arnold Downing, Berlin Chief of Police, would be working in conjunction with the other local chiefs to measure their public safety impact estimates.
Williams said that while Berlin had a plan to develop the land the town purchased for a new police station and community center would be acceptable, the town needed to come up with an additional plan for expenditure.
“It looks like that commitment could be taken care of by the lower side of the estimate,” he said.