OPINION: the price of inconsistency

the price of inconsistencyprice of inconsistency

OPINION | This is what happens when the only consistency is the inconsistency of the codes official in Columbia.

The facebook court of subjectivity has kicked in on the issue of the painting of a building in the “historic district” in Columbia. Bootleg Antiques’s facebook page has more than 117 comments following this post from earlier today.

Impassioned subjective comments are thrown about in response to the objectivity of a borough ordinance enacted and adopted by council on October 8, 2018.

paint ordinance

Stated in Section 1 of the Ordinance is this:

” … the application of paint to any previously unpainted building material of surface … or any part of any structure or object that is visible from a property’s tax parcel street elevation” has to be reviewed by the Borough’s Historical Architectural Review Board.

The objective point remains that the structure in question, the one operating as Bootleg Antiques, did not have have the requisite review and endorsement.

Like it or not, the aesthetics of the painting are not the issue; the issue is that the codes officer has denied knowledge of the situation. His failure to act, to inform implied consent and the business owner continued to paint the structure, probably completely and innocently ignorant of the ordinance.

Is it a good ordinance? Perhaps.

Is it the responsibility of the Borough’s codes department to notice violations of codes and ordinances and to inform the violators — consistently and promptly? Assuredly.

Have you watched and  listened to the video recording from Thursday’s Borough Council “work session.” If you haven’t , do. Hear the testimony as it was explained at the meeting. Then make your decision. This is not the first time the issue has been discussed at a council meeting.

Community division ought not be happening because of irregularly or inconsistently applied codes or ordinances. Aesthetics aside, codes and ordinances are legislated and ought to be applied equitably, uniformly and impartially. Yet, there’s a pattern and practice over the years.

If it’s a badly constructed ordinance, revisit it.

If it’s an unenforceable piece of legislation, insure uniform treatment.

If codes personnel cannot or will not comply with legislation; retrain the person. Counsel the person and document. Or replace the person.

Columbia’s got too much potential to be derailed by inconsistency and the resulting wars of words. Columbia can be better with improved communication and consistency.

2020 cannot come fast enough. That’s when Jeff Helm gets out of the food serving establishments inspection business. It the interim, Columbia has begun posting  inspections (some, at least) at its Website


Lancaster County’s (except Columbia’s) inspections for August 9 at Lancaster Online. 

York County’s Inspections

Click here to go to the state’s Website of inspections … and the listing of the violations at each location. The statewide directory lists inspections for all municipalities in York County and Lancaster County.

Posting the monthly inspections is a step towards transparency. Even if the codes official has to dragged into the light of doing the job as it should be done … with no acts of favoritism.


  1. It’s astounding the number of residents that support violating the ordinance. Rather than supporting the violation of it, they need to show up at a meeting and demand the repeal of it. Judging by the comments, many have no understanding of what’s going on. It leads to shared ignorance. Many cite buildings that have been painted, yet that was done before the ordinance was enacted.

  2. I guess the number 1 question is, do we want history or the illusion of history. History is not always pretty but yet so many say give a pass because it looks good. So which is more important?

    This incident has exposed a major need for conversation on the future of the historic district. For the last few years there have been incidents like this but since they were not on the scale of the whole building, they really did not get much attention. Well now that the issue has attention, we need to have the tough conversation.

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