Berlin Historic District Unlikely To Grow Without Public Input

BERLIN – There are no immediate plans for the expansion of Berlin’s historic district.

While some members of the Berlin Historic District Commission (HDC) have expressed interest in seeing more properties incorporated into the district, it’s not something that would be done without public input. Carol Rose, chair of the commission, says she wants to discuss the possibility later this year.

“This winter I’d like to sit down with the board to come up with a presentation for the homeowners,” she said.

Though commission member Robert Poli expressed his interest in seeing the town’s historic district expanded earlier this month, Rose says any changes would only come after extensive research and discussions with owners of the properties to be incorporated into the district.

While a proposal to expand the district made more than a decade ago was strongly opposed by residents, Rose believes that’s because the issue wasn’t presented properly.

“Any discussion about expansion has to be done with the owners of those properties sitting here with our board, informally, so we can let them know our only interest in adding them is preservation,” she said.

Rose said she was interested in seeing the borders of the district moved to include more of the town’s historic homes, particularly those on North Main Street. She’s particularly interested in preserving those built prior to 1904. She said that if a 19th century home wasn’t within the historic district, it could easily be torn down.

“It would kill me if something like that happened,” she said.

In spite of beliefs maintained by some residents, she says the commission is not concerned with little things like the color of a house. Its main goal is preserving Berlin’s historic architecture.

“It’s strictly for the preservation of these beautiful homes,” she said.

If Rose and the rest of the commission decide to pursue an expansion of the district, they’d have to formally recommend that expansion to the town council.

“The mayor and council would then put any recommendation from the HDC on our regular session agenda to obtain public comment at one or more meetings,” Mayor Gee Williams said.

He said he hadn’t heard from anyone regarding the possibility of an expansion and believes discussion of the issue is premature until it’s truly deliberated by the HDC.

“It is at the discretion of the current historic district commission as to whether they wish to formally consider any changes to the current historic district boundaries,” he said. “If and until this matter is taken-up and a formal recommendation is passed by the HDC to the mayor and council, it remains a point of discussion by one member of the HDC.”

Rose stressed that when the commission does consider expansion, its members will not push the issue if the public is against it.

“Certainly if the overwhelming majority of people don’t want it, so be it,” she said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.