Berlin, Developers Could Team Up For Comp. Plan Help

BERLIN – The town of Berlin may seek expert help in
writing the new comprehensive plan, after a presentation by a nationally known
expert caught the attention of a Town Council member and local developers might
help foot the bill.

At the Berlin Planning Commission meeting this month,
Stacey Weisner, Berlin’s Superintendent of Planning and Zoning, who has written
the draft plan, floated the possibility of engaging the services of Dhiru
Thadani of Ayers Saint Gross (ASG), who spoke before the commission last month.

A draft of the comprehensive plan will be the subject of a
public hearing March 28, beginning 6 p.m. at Berlin Town Hall. Copies of the
draft are available in hard copy and by e-mail from the planning office.

“This is still very much a draft. We’re still missing a
few things,” said Weisner, at the March Planning Commission meeting. “It
certainly isn’t the best it can be at this point.”

The official public hearing required by law will be held
later in the process, said Weisner. The March 28 hearing is merely one in a
series of meetings seeking public input on the plan as it is being revised.

A formal hearing will be held after the state comments on
the comprehensive plan.

Earlier this month, Weisner consulted Thadani and
colleagues on the draft comprehensive plan as a potential client and asked the
firm to submit a proposal to redo the comprehensive plan.

“I was the one who suggested it because I thought those
folks were so good,” said Berlin Council member Paula Lynch.

Weisner agreed the meeting led to the possibility of
hiring the firm.

“We had a wonderful exchange,” she said. “They were very,
very helpful.”

The ASG partners suggested adding more charts and pictures
to the plan according to Weisner. She has also added an emphasis on multiple
town centers, including the Atlantic General Hospital and Flower Street
multi-purpose building areas along with the downtown area, following Thadani’s

Tom Gallagher, vice president of Bay Club owner Carl
Freeman Associates, which paid for Thadani’s presentation before the Berlin
Planning Commission last month, said the company would pick up part of the tab
for an outside review of the comprehensive plan, 25 percent of the costs, up to
$50,000. Other developers could pitch in as well, he suggested.

“Berlin is going through a very important process. Working
in many communities, we know how critical long-term comprehensive planning is
for the community,” said Gallagher later. “Part of our philosophy corporately
is to help out the communities where we are active.”

The company has offered the same type of help to Easton,
where it is redeveloping the Tidewater Inn.

“That might be a little dicey but I don’t know enough to
make a comment yet,” said Lynch. “I think we’d have to look at that very

Gallagher said the offer was not made to help the Bay Club
development project move forward.

“It certainly doesn’t hurt us but there are no conditions
on it,” he said. “If it helps the town, great. If it creates some goodwill for
us, great.”

At the planning commission meeting, Weisner also suggested
sending staff or commission members to the upcoming Congress for New Urbanism

Gallagher also offered financial help to send town
representatives to the event.

“That’s very kind of you. We’ll certainly take it under
advisement,” said Planning Commission Chair Pete Cosby.

Proposals should also be requested from other firms who do
the same work, said Commission member Dave Rovansek.

Meanwhile, Weisner urged town officials to spend the money
on the comp plan consultant.

get what you pay for and they are very, very good,” Weisner said.