Planning Consultants To Guide Berlin

BERLIN – The growing town of Berlin will have some assistance from consultants on planning issues currently before the town, specifically help on wastewater plant financing and site plan reviews, the Mayor and Council decided Monday.

Berlin’s elected officials voted to hire the Wye River Group to work on the financing for the town’s share of the new wastewater treatment proposal, which is set to involve an unusual, perhaps groundbreaking, public-private partnership between the town of Berlin and Berlin Properties North (BPN).

“I think we have no alternative but to get moving with this,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.

Council Vice President Gee Williams agreed, saying, “Without financing the whole thing is pie in the sky.”

The wastewater project has been kicked into a higher gear since the spring, when the town first took a previous proposal, an expansion of the town’s current plant, to the county planning staff.

Developer Troy Purnell of BPN then reiterated and won approval for an offer to build a second plant on the former Tyson chicken plant site to provide service for that property and expanded service for the town. Berlin will retain and continue to run its current plant under this deal.

Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale expressed some concern that the private element of the deal could restrict or eliminate funding from the traditional government sources.

Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary later explained that the usual wastewater system funding source for small towns like Berlin, Maryland’s revolving loan fund, and federal rural development monies, are not available to private sewer treatment systems.

“As it’s being developed now, it’s not eligible,” she said. “Is there another way to structure the town’s [financial] portion of the project?”

The consultants are expected to clarify that situation. The town will ask Wye River Group to analyze those alternatives, develop a finance plan and help execute it.

In the interim between the departure of planning head Stacey Weisner and the hire of a new superintendent, the council voted to engage a planner from consultant Davis Bowen and Friedel (DBF) this week to handle site plan and subdivision review.

Bambary said she has been getting a lot of questions from the public on who is handling the planning head’s work while the position is vacant.

Timothy Bourcier of DBF will take up the slack and review site plans that must go before the Berlin Planning Commission, making sure the plans meet such requirements as zoning, setbacks, stormwater management and falls under the permitted uses for the property.

Bourcier will also look over subdivision plans and develop a checklist for the construction plan review and permitting process. The checklist will lay out the documents and benchmarks required to build in Berlin.

“Developers just want to know what the town wants,” said Bambary.

Planning staff will continue to review single-family home projects.

Planning review fees will pay for Bourcier’s services, not Berlin’s budget.

“I think this is great,” said Cardinale.

Williams suggested Bourcier could review the job requirements for the planning and zoning superintendent and suggest changes.

“There isn’t a day goes by someone doesn’t give me advice on this issue,” said Cardinale. “The net we’ve thrown is a wide one.”

About 10 applications have been submitted to date.