BERLIN – The Berlin Planning Commission and the town must make the completion of the comprehensive plan a priority, the commission concluded this week.
“We have totally and utterly failed to get the comprehensive plan done. It’s turning into a joke for me,” said Planning Commission Chair Pete Cosby Wednesday night.
Planning consultant Tim Bourcier, engaged by the town to fill in some of the gaps while the new planning and zoning superintendent is hired, brought several draft ordinances and other unfinished business before the planning commission this week, but Cosby said nothing but the comprehensive plan mattered for now.
“I want the comprehensive plan to be the focus of this commission, except day-to-day business, until we get it done,” Cosby said.
The commission last saw a draft of the plan last spring, one of several drafts in the last several years that never seem to get finished.
“I’ve done four of these over the last three years,” Cosby said, spending hours commenting and correcting, but that has been a waste of time, he feels, because nothing has ever come of his efforts.
The commission held a public hearing on the draft last March, and the commission members made their own comments, but the draft never went beyond that as far as the commission is concerned.
Departed planning superintendent Stacey Weisner reported in July that the final draft was nearly complete, but left for another position before finishing the plan.
The repeated delays have left the planning commission, elected officials and townsfolk frustrated.
“Get the comprehensive plan drafted, have a hearing and get it passed,” Cosby said.
The plan needs to be fast tracked, he feels.
“If we sit back and agonize on every detail, it’ll never get done,” Cosby said. “It’s an embarrassment.”
Bourcier suggested the town needs a consultant to get the plan finished.
The most recent comprehensive plan draft has some good elements, he said, like the goals and policies included, but whoever drafts it needs detailed knowledge of Maryland’s rules and regulations for such plans.
One part of the current draft needs to be scrapped entirely, he said, because it does not comply. “To an extent, some of it is baseless,” Bourcier said.
Cosby said he thought the new planning and zoning superintendent should finish the plan. “That person should pick up the ball and carry it,” Cosby said. “He gets to learn a lot about the town real quick.”
Bourcier disagreed, saying that the new hire would not necessarily be familiar enough with Maryland’s regulations, especially anyone from out of the state.
“A comprehensive plan doesn’t have to be rocket science,” said Cosby.
The outline of the plan is well set up, Bourcier said, but the information under the headers “won’t necessarily pass muster.”
“I guess that’s where we need some guidance,” Cosby admitted.
Hiring a consultant, whether Bourcier or someone else, is a matter for the Mayor and Council.
Berlin resident Sandy Coyman, director of Worcester County’s comprehensive planning department, said the new administrator would need time to adjust.
“We ought to hold onto Tim to work on the comprehensive plan,” Coyman said. “Tim’s already got some knowledge about the town. I think he’s going to be a real asset to us.”
Several steps must be taken once the planning commission passes the new comprehensive plan, and then a public hearing before the Mayor and Town Council. After the council approves the plan, the county and state must sign off on it.