Elkton Town Hall – August 31, 2011 – After dispatching a Historic and Architectural Review Committee (HARC) decision involving signs on a physician’s office downtown, the panel kicked around concerns about impressions that were created during the Aug 10 workshop with elected officials. The meeting with the mayor and commissioners got off to a track I wasn’t anticipating, Paula Newton, the Chair, informed the committee. “I wanted to know if they were going to support the decisions we make as so far they haven’t.” But “all they heard was dissolve the historic district,” Linda Griffith added as Paula nodded in agreement.
The mayor is under the impression the other elected officials now want to get rid of the district because of the burdensome nature of the regulations since the HARC discussion centered around elimination of the special district or reduction in its size. “We scared the commissioners into thinking we’re going to regulate” the minutia in buildings. “The reality is the guidelines in other towns are broad and give you a lot of leeway. . . . Depending on the age and history of the structure, we’re not going to apply strict guidelines, and that’s something the mayor and commissioners didn’t hear. These guidelines we’re talking about really are broad and they’re recommendations. . . . They’re not set in stone. We’re going to be lenient on a 1970s building, in comparison to a historic one.”
Noting the other point of view, Josh Brown went back to the signage discussion that took place when he mentioned the “heavy handed guidelines we’re going to enforce. . . . You’re telling this guy he’s got to put up an appropriate sign, but like counsel said there are plenty of others that aren’t in compliance.” The town attorney had weighed in on whether HARC should regulate the sign as there were plenty of others that weren’t in compliance. Those were done before the HARC committee was created and the authority to regulate those displays wasn’t in place, Paula answered. “There are some buildings that shouldn’t be in the historic district,” Josh continued as Paula added that if something came up with those non-contributing buildings they would be treated leniently. “We’re trying to preserve what we have,” she continued and they’re not going to make you go back and put something in that wasn’t there. “If you build it in the 1970s you go by that code and not this code,” Mark Clark added.
With the exchange winding down, Josh talked about whether certain areas should be in the district. Paula reemphasized that the regulations don’t’ require a strict approach to buildings that aren’t contributing to the historical fabric of the neighborhood as she noted the need to protect cultural resources that still exist in some of the areas. She wrapped up the exchanges by advising that the Maryland Historical Trust was going to have a preservation planner from the state attend a meeting with Elkton’s Mayor and Commissioners to help the elected officials sort out the concerns that were raised during the workshop.