observer’s notes: H.A.R.B. meeting August 17, 2011

Here are our meeting notes of the topics addressed at the Historical Architecture Review Board (H.A.R.B.) meeting from Wednesday, August 17.


  • The Board looked at a computer-based slide show which was produced by Whitney Pagan of Left of Center Photography. The Board has endorsed a poster concept that will help with community positive identification.  The concept is based on doors posters that have are used in numerous communities across the globe. The Board members were provided with a printed draft example of the concept; no copies were offered to meeting observers. A final version was not presented. This project bears no Board nor municipal expense; it is a Left of Center Photography project.


  • Probably 65% of the two-hour meeting time involved discussion about the letter from Museum Partners. With some exception discussion, the consensus of the members is that what was promised and what was approved was not delivered.
  • Here are some of the comments voiced during the meeting:

“The building looks fabulous, but it not what we approved. We approved a building with windows and a roof. I never would have given my approval for an unfinished building; I would have suggested they just take away that unfinished floor.

“If you cannot depend on an individual or a corporation to do what they promised to do, then someone has to bird-dog them.”

“How do we address this communication breakdown meaningfully going forward to assure this does not happen again.”

“The Borough issues the permits based on H.A.R.B. recommendation.”

“If we (pursue) this issue and the Borough resists it, then there’s no sense in being on this Board. If we do not … , then the approval of the Board is ‘meaningless’.”

“This is a major project that did not go according to plan.”

“We need to put conditions in place for future projects. We approved a roof and enclosed windows, every time we saw an article in the newspapers, we saw a roof and windows. That’s not what happened.”

“That’s some ‘stones’ to suggest a plan with no idea of retail.” (H.A.R.B. member on the 400 Locust Street proposal to the Planning Commission.) There was also discussion about the issue that proposals for structure construction or modification within the defined “historic” areas ought to be received by H.A.R.B before zoning and/or planning.


  • Chairperson Sears introduced the news about the condominium proposals (at 400 and 401 Locust Street) from the Planning Commission meeting. [NOTE: Sears serves as a member of the Planning Commission and is the husband of councilor (Renae Sears). This is extracted from a Columbia news, views & reviews item covering that meeting: ” TMIS, LLC, is requesting special exception(s), variance(s) for parking and/or a modification of a previous zoning decision at 401 Locust Street in a Downtown Commercial (DC) zoned district. Jaydesh Properties, LLC, is requesting special exception(s) and/or variance(s) for construction of a 4 unit mixed use building with parking at 400 Locust Street in a Downtown Commercial(DC) zoned district.”
  • Sears related that developer John DeVitry presented plans to construct an enclosed parking garage and condominiums adjacent to his existing property at 401 Locust Street. The Planning Commission endorsed that plan (curiously, a citizen observed that the property has already received approval as a hotel). [NOTE: DeVitry is one of the listed owners of the Lancaster Arts Hotel, a trendy boutique hotel in Lancaster. In 2007, this newspaper article linked DeVitry to another condominium project. This 2009 Central Penn Business Journal interview with DeVitry shares his vision.) DeVitry also provided a “vague” narrative for the property at 400 Locust Street; the Committee declined approval of that property pending receipt of more specifics. The nebulous narrative suggested the 400 Locust Street property owner wants to construct a structure containing condominiums atop a ground floor “retail” environment. There were no possible retail tenant prospects forwarded when questions were posed.
  • H.A.R.B. member Beckley reminded the Board that Council had enacted a “cease and desist” order prohibiting parking at  400 Locust Street and require the Highway Department to restore the curb to its original condition. That information is listed at the May Council meeting/minutes.


  • Two citizens attending the meeting expressed their appreciation for the fervor, dedication and passion that the Board members have expended to improve the quality of life in Columbia.

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