Bangor property owners who have buildings in historic districts will now be able to choose any color they want when repainting their building, after the City Council approved in a 7-1 vote on Wednesday evening a number of major changes to the city’s historic preservation code.
Paint color, signage, public art and some energy efficiency upgrades are among the things that now will not require historic preservation board approval, in the first wholesale update of the entire document since the late 1980s.
“The last time it was majorly updated was in an era before the internet, before energy efficiency standards. Downtown looked dramatically different then, compared to now,” said Tanya Emery, Bangor’s community and economic development director. “These changes will make the whole process more user friendly and bring us in line with other historic preservation boards across the country.”
City staff for the past two years have been revising the historic preservation guidelines to remove unnecessary restrictions, update language to accommodate modern technologies, reduce some of the contradictions between historic preservation and general code and disability access requirements, and to streamline and clarify the entire set of standards so it is easier to understand.
There are nine historic districts in Bangor, which include most of the downtown area and several neighborhoods, such as the Broadway Historic District on the East Side and the Whitney Park District on the West Side. The historic preservation commission, a volunteer board chaired by Reese Perkins, oversees the management of these districts and approves all major changes to buildings within those districts.
Historic preservation requirements have often caused frustration and extra expense over the years for property owners in historic districts. About three years ago, Amanda Sohns, who with her family co-owns 36 Central St. in downtown Bangor, wanted to have a satellite dish installed on the roof of their then newly purchased building, so they could provide cable TV and internet to future tenants in their three apartments upstairs from their business, The Rock & Art Shop.
She was told by the commission that they could not do so because satellite dishes were not historically accurate for the building, which was built in 1911 and is located within the city’s Great Fire of 1911 Historic District.
“Satellite was our only option to have internet at that time. They told us that a satellite dish was not historically accurate,” Sohns said. “How are you supposed to offer a luxury-style apartment if you can’t offer internet and cable? It just seemed kind of silly. It wasn’t like it was a permanent fixture. But it was a problem for us.”