Board feels put upon

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:59

    MILFORD - They’re admittedly the group everyone loves to hate and they’re not happy about it. Milford Borough’s Architectural Review Board has a tough job, charged with maintaining the historic integrity of the downtown’s commercial properties, they are the overseers and judges of good taste. That means that if you have a business in one of the borough’s historic properties, you need to convince them that any changes you make to the property are consistent with its historic status. Some downtown merchants complain privately that the review process makes any improvements unreasonably costly and time consuming. Board Chair Beth Kelley says the reputation is undeserved. “In the four years we’ve been here, we’ve turned down three projects. Kelley said the bad reputation comes “mostly from the press,” which has written about actions in meetings which they never attended, while quoting board members. Kelley said the board’s efforts have made an important difference to the borough’s appearance. She cited one its first reviews, for the Newton Memorial Hospital Wellness Center project, which was initially planned to be much closer to street. The board’s decision deepened the setback, so the building would not overwhelm others nearby “and we saved a 150 year tulip-magnolia tree,” she said. Much of the board’s work involves signs and commercial fixtures, materials used and elements of proportion. An example was Monday’s review of sign at Elena Caragiu’s realty office at 203 East Harford Street. Saying the sign is difficult, if not impossible for westbound traffic to see from the street, Caragiu sought to raise a new replacement sign from the current 6.5’ feet at its top, to 11 feet. Board members said that at that height the sign would overwhelm the Victorian Mansard House, where Caragiu’s office is located. “I drive by there every day and I don’t have problems seeing it,” Kelley said. Caragiu argued that a neighboring realty office had enlarged its sign, but board solicitor John Klemeyer said it’s not the board’s purpose to compare signs, but rather to proportion signs to historic properties. And the other Realtor is not located in a historic building, Kelley added. “We can’t allow eleven feet,” she said. Board member James McLain suggested eight feet, but Caragiu associate John Chester said the expense would not be worthwhile. “Fine. Leave it the way it is,” said Klemeyer as the negotiation continued. With the sign’s design already approved, Kevin Stroyan suggested a field review to consider the height. After a 9 a.m. review the following morning, Chester reported that nine feet was tentatively approved. “All the members were not there, but they did not anticipate any opposition,” he said.