In order to get a grip on the difficulty of accepting the Berlin Historic District Commission’s (HDC) dismissal last week of the plans to re-do the Visitors Center, it might be best to consider the events of Monday night’s Town Council Meeting.
At that meeting, Newt Chandler spoke convincingly against inflexible architectural standards for those properties outside of the Historic District. His reasoning was simple: forcing the Planning Commission, of which he is the chair, to embrace rigidity will do nothing to encourage improvements in the rest of the town.
The notion that buildings should be left as is or converted into palaces all in one fell swoop is ridiculous and irresponsible. While the HDC may possibly succeed in making something they find “acceptable” so expensive it forces a Visitors Center scale-back, the strongest signal they sent with their terse, obscure rejection was a warning against improving other Downtown structures.
During Monday night’s Council meeting Zoning and HDC chair, Carol Rose, said the Commissioners didn’t want to court controversy, pointing out there was none when the cases were easily decided. In matters of aesthetic, especially since they are ever changing, a wise person provides constructive criticism.
Being dismissive, as the HDC was in quashing the Visitors Center request, is what courts controversy just as making empty lawsuit threats — as they did with the Atlantic Hotel window debacle, courts controversy. The HDC continues to demonstrate borderline obstructionism and, by their actions, a thirst for controversy.