BERLIN — After considerable debate about loosening the town’s height restriction on residential buildings, Berlin officials this week made a blanket decision to increase the limitation to 35 feet across the board.
Currently, the town code allows for a maximum height of 30 feet on residential construction in Berlin. Developers of new residential projects currently have the opportunity to ask the town’s Board of Zoning Appeals for relief from the building height cap, but only if hardship can be proven. Last month, local developer Bob Purcell asked the town’s Planning Commission to consider a text amendment that would allow him and other builders to ask the BZA for an exception to the height limit even if hardship could not be proven.
The Planning Commission, however, could not reach a consensus on the proposed height limit variance request and forwarded the issue to the Mayor and Council. On Monday, the town’s elected officials were presented with a text amendment proposal that would allow for an exception to the existing 30-foot height limit under certain circumstances. For example, the text amendment as written would have allowed special exceptions to the 30-foot, or two-and-a-half story, limit after taking into consideration adjoining properties or properties within 500 feet.
Before the Mayor and Council could consider the proposed text amendment, attorney Mark Cropper, who was representing Purcell, said the “adjoining” or “500-foot” language was ambiguous and asked if the proposed code change could be clarified. After considerable debate, Councilman Troy Purnell suggested the language regarding distances from neighboring properties be eliminated altogether and proposed a straight 35-foot maximum height limit for all residential properties.
“I suggest we change it from a maximum of 30 feet or two-and-a-half stories to 35 feet and eliminate the need for the discussion about adjacent properties,” he said. “That seems like the easiest solution here.”
Purcell told the Mayor and Council that with the project that precipitated the code change request, he was not seeking a third story, but only a steeper pitched roof. The council approved the height limit change to 35 feet unanimously. Mayor Gee Williams said code change would provide developers with some flexibility in the height requirements without changing the character of the town.
“In this environment, we want to do everything we can to be supportive of those who want to invest in our community,” he said. “I can’t think of anything detrimental to the town to go to 35 feet.”