Berlin Could See Official Design Rules

BERLIN – The Berlin Planning Commission plans to take steps towards creating official architectural guidelines for new buildings within town limits by creating a subcommittee to create bid specifications for architectural firms interested in doing the work.

Planning Commission member Joe Hill suggested taking this action at Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting, during general discussion after the last agenda item.

“It would have to be a subcommittee,” said Planning and Zoning Superintendent Chuck Ward, affirming that the Planning Commission does have that power.

The Planning Commission has been attempting to impose its architectural will on developers for years and has been lamenting the lack of official design guidelines or a pattern book for all that time.

The goal is for new construction to blend in architecturally with the existing houses and businesses in Berlin.

“I would dearly like to get an architectural review committee together and get some architectural guidelines going. That would be great,” said Planning Commission member Pete Cosby.  

Berlin needs to set architectural standards before establishing an architectural subcommittee to review projects for compliance. Standards are needed for new construction in the entire town, not just the historic district.

Different parts of town need different standards, said Planning Commission Chair Newt Chandler.  There is more than one historic architectural period represented in Berlin, from the Victorian and Edwardian era to the 1950s.

Part of the problem with the Berlin historic district, Chandler said, is the lack of written guidelines as to what homeowners may and may not do to the exterior of their houses. That problem also arises with new construction. With the added complication, the Planning Commission has no authority to require compliance with their notions of Berlin compatible design.

The law would need to be written to allow interpretation, said Cosby.

Ward suggested holding a work session to establish the subcommittee.

“That subject needs to come to the forefront,” said interim Mayor Gee Williams later this week. “Everywhere I go people say, please protect and preserve the town’s character and its look and its feel.”

Williams said council would consider the matter and do whatever it could within the town’s means to further that goal.