Berlin Visioning Meeting Targets East Residents

BERLIN – The second citizen visioning meeting for the new Berlin Comprehensive Plan will be held on July 23 at the Flower St. Multi-Purpose Building.

The meeting “will help us to be a little more in tune with that neighborhood,” said Tim Bourcier, the planning consultant writing the new Berlin Comprehensive Plan.

Census information shows that Berlin is 33 percent African American, and Bourcier said the town needs to hear from that segment of society.

“They generally don’t come out and give input on these things. We’re making sure we target the African American population,” Bourcier said earlier this year when he described the comprehensive planning process. 

The Flower St. meeting will echo the meeting held in late April at Berlin Town Hall in format, with citizens formed into smaller groups to discuss a set list of topics and concerns, Bourcier said.

Some of those topics will be more tuned to the largely African American Flower St. neighborhood, such as affordable housing and neighborhood redevelopment, but the list is not final yet.

Bourcier will work with community leaders to develop a subject list.

While he does not plan to hold more visioning meetings after the July 23 event, Bourcier said a public workshop on the draft plan, once written, would be held at the request of interim Mayor Gee Williams.

“I want to make sure citizens have every opportunity to put their input into the plan. This is not a plan for the shelf. This is a road map for the future of the town,” Williams said.

Williams said he envisions holding at least one more meeting than originally planned, and possibly more, to get all the citizen opinions possible.

“It’ll be more, not less, in terms of opportunities for input, “ he said.

The draft plan will be posted online, with a mechanism for comment.

The process will include mailings, and surveys, which elected officials will back, according to Williams.

“The Mayor and Council are going to support it with the money needed to do it,” he said.

Surveys, developed from citizen comments at the visioning meeting, will go out with the town newsletter and tax bills and will be available online.

“There’ll be multiple [comment] options,” Bourcier said.

The process will not be dragged out, said Williams.

“I want to keep the momentum going,” Williams said.

The first meeting yielded useful information, according to Bourcier, especially on historic district issues, which were much on the minds of townsfolk.

“I was impressed and surprised by the overwhelming response to have residential downtown,” Bourcier said.

Many citizens expressed a desire for mixed uses with residential above retail and within easy reach of services. Townspeople also felt that there were not enough services in town.

Some areas did not get as much of a response.

“I think we really need to talk more about growth,” Bourcier said. “How Berlin is going to grow, the type of growth Berlin wants. We didn’t hear too much about that.”