The trouble with “free range” | was clearly evident at last evening’s Historical Architectural Board meeting. The agenda was a light one with no scheduled reviews. Much of the discussion was centered on observations voiced by the owner of Bootleg Antiques and the owner of the structure that houses the business. Noticeably absent from last night’s H.A.R.B. meeting was the primary culprit of the discussion, Jeff Helm. Helm, the borough’s building inspector and H.A.R.B. member, along with Jonathan Lutz and Jeanne Lehman were absent. H.AR.B. members listened to the tales of Helm’s mis-communications, inaccurate guidance and cavalier “free-range” responses to the business’s and property owner’s plight of painting and repainting to improve the property’s appearance.
PHOTO SOURCE: Bootleg Antiques facebook page
Vastly improved | There was virtually no disagreement among those in attendance at last night’s meeting who found issue with the owners’ statements that the painting of the structure has made dramatic aesthetic improvements in the neighborhood; brought positive statement and impact for people entering the borough via two gateways — Route 441 and Route 462 over The Bridge.
The owners provided a more than ample supply of conflicting mailings from the building inspector as they grappled with the hard to comprehend senselessness of the “free-range” actions of Jeff Helm . As a borough employee and representative of zoning, planning and H.A.R.B. boards, any citizen or business operator has to rely on the communication of borough staff persons. When that information is not communicated; badly communicated or mis-communicated, the actions are those of gross-misconduct.
Passion, sweat and focus | Given the mis-guidance and lack of consistent communication, the owners of the businesses should be given official borough clearance to complete the painting of Bootleg Antiques.
Additionally, the borough must act to provide clear, consistent communication to all citizens and businesses — particularly those in the now defined (or impending re-defined) Historical District. This is an imperative; the borough must either strengthen the communication and support the Historical Architectural Review Board … or make major changes.
The borough must once and always reign in the “free-range” operators. Jeff Helm has a long record of operating and making decisions that fall outside the borough codes and ordinances (Turkey Hill Experience, electronic signs on churches; ignoring the flashing signs; approving a mega structure , etc.). The citizen comment below is from a Columbia news, views & reviews 2014 post about the mega structure.
“When I called the zoning office and spoke to a rude woman named Deb I was told the hearing will be Oct 29. She assured me that it will be posted on sight and in newspaper because ‘Jeff Helm is in charge of that and he knows the laws and procedures regarding that issue’. I said yeah well he should know the zoning laws and codes also and this should have never been allowed to begin with. She told me that’s a matter of opinion and nobody is perfect.” – thread from What’s Happening in Columbia about the contested structure on 13th Street. This is just one of many comments.”
The borough’s integrity | and reputation is on the line when it fails to operate in a consistent manner. Every citizen, business operator and prospective business operator has to expect a progressive, can-do and consistent set of rules to play by. The time of the GOBAG and “free-range” decision making has to go.
The borough has to rid itself of the credo | “the only consistency in Columbia is inconsistency!”
Maybe that’s the problem? | We may have lost the key for the cat that lives here. He operates on his own … kinda’ “free range.” This notice is in the classified section of today’s LNP – Always Lancaster.