Columbia Borough building

The Columbia Borough municipal offices at 308 Locust St., Columbia.

When: Council meeting, Sept. 24.

What happened: A controversial project to finish painting a brick building in Columbia’s historic district got a go-ahead from Borough Council, which voted 5-2 to override a recommendation from the borough Historical Architectural Review Board to deny a permit for the project.

Why it matters: Council members allege the building’s owner violated a borough law by beginning the work without a permit. The decision will allow William R. Pflumm, the owner of the complex at 155 Bridge St., to complete the painting project begun June. Council members who voted in favor of the permit argued there was little choice at this point because so much of the building was already painted, and it would be unattractive to leave it unfinished.

Background: Under an ordinance passed unanimously in October 2018 by the same seven council members, it is illegal to paint any previously unpainted surfaces in the historic district without first obtaining a permit. Sharon Lintner, who is running for a council seat in the general election on Nov. 5, raised the issue, which had gone unnoticed, at a July 23 council meeting. In August the borough issued a stop work order and advised Pflumm he would need to apply to the architectural review board for a permit to complete the painting.

What’s next: The vote allows Pflumm to finish the painting, but the status of Pflumm’s violation is unclear. Property owners found to have violated the ordinance can face a fine of up to $500, with every day of continuing violation considered a separate offense. Zoning officer Jeff Helm says no citation has been issued to date. Helm says the matter is in the hands of the borough solicitor at this point.