The Porter Board of
Zoning Appeals ordered Carl Dahlin Jr. to secure the old Johnson Inn and
plan for exterior improvements at its meeting Wednesday, following the
issuance of an unsafe building order in September and a recent inspection of
Commissioner Michael Barry reported he inspected the Inn with Fire Chief Jay
Craig and found no fire hazards from wiring. Barry also said the building’s
structure is surprisingly sound, save for the south porch. “I think that is
the only thing that would need to be removed if they were going to rehab the
building and reuse it,” Barry said.
that though the outside of the building is “very much in disrepair,” the
inside is not. “I want to repeat this,” he said. “It’s in surprisingly good
structural shape. There’s no cracks in the concrete floors, no cracks in the
basement walls. The walls are solid.”
Barry’s report, the inspection was based on visual inspection of a
“representative sampling” of structural components. Barry writes in the
report that furniture and other storage restricted access to some structural
components. He did conclude, according to the report, that the building
needs a lot of work including: replacement of roof and windows, new plumbing
and heating systems, pest control, mold remediation, and professional
testing for asbestos.
Barry issued an
unsafe building order for the Inn in September, following resident
complaints that the Inn is unsightly and unsafe. The order gave Barry fuel
for the new inspection, ordered Dahlin to secure the building against
potential intrusion and weather by Dec. 9, and required him to appear before
the BZA in October.
Dahlin wasn’t able
to attend the meeting Wednesday due to health issues, but his son Chris
spoke on his behalf. Chris Dahlin said his father has priced exterior rehab
such as window replacement and painting, but has nothing to report about
when the work might be done.
When Board member
Laura Madigan asked, Chris Dahlin said it was unreasonable for the Inn to be
secured by Dec. 9, and that he and his family would appreciate an extension
on the order to make exterior improvements.
Board member Jim
Eriksson suggested Dahlin should have more time to improve the outside of
the Inn due to impending winter weather. “He’s gone through a lot in the
last couple years. I don’t want to see it just standing there either, but
you know, like I said, right now what can he do on the outside? This is not
the time of year to paint,” Eriksson said.
“When it comes to
general safety, I think it can be made safe and sealed up now, and they can
agree about making it look prettier in the spring,” Madigan said. Board
President John Kremke agreed.
Laura Frost said the Board can modify the order without the property owner
present at the meeting, as long as they don’t make it more stringent than it
The Board voted
unanimously to modify the order so Dahlin has until July 1, 2021 to complete
exterior improvements. Kremke said the July 1 deadline was not generous, but
realistic given unpredictable spring weather. Dahlin is still required to
secure the building by Dec. 9, 2020.
Barry noted Dahlin
is hoping to sell the property. Any new owners will be bound by the
requirements to fix up the building’s exterior, according to Frost. She also
said the Town can take steps to assess fines or complete the work itself and
seek reimbursement if improvements are not made by the deadline.
In other business,
the Board conducted a preliminary hearing where David Rodgers is seeking a
developmental standards variance to put up a five-foot tall, wrought-iron
style fence on the east side of the house at 751 Wood Street. Rodgers said
he’d like to have a fenced area for his dogs. The corner lot is triangular,
and the house set too far back for Rodgers to have a fenced back yard, Barry
said. The Board voted to set Rodgers’ request for public hearing at its