Berlin Working Out Green Belt Details

BERLIN – The outline of the town’s future growth boundary, complete with green belt, was laid out this week by the Berlin Planning Commission during a work session.

The urban growth boundary, which got the green light from Berlin Mayor Gee Williams and the members of the council several weeks ago, marks the planned furthest extent of the town’s future growth.

Those parcels lying within the urban growth boundary, which are now in the county, would also provide an eventually contiguous green belt around the town, separating Berlin from any future development in the county and defining the town.

“The green belt’s not going to be a suggested edge, it’s going to be a designated edge,” said commission member Pete Cosby.

Property owners on the edge of Berlin do not need to worry that town plans will be forced on them, according to the planning commission.

The approach worked out by the planning commission, which would have to be approved by the town council, is to negotiate with a landowner requesting annexation. The town could offer more density of residential or commercial units, for example, in exchange for the outer acres of the property being left in a natural and unbuilt state in perpetuity.

People will want to be annexed for several reasons, such as access to utilities like wastewater and the need for rezoning, planning commission Chair Newt Chandler said.

The green belt goal will be part of the new Berlin Comprehensive Plan, planners said.

“The key element of the whole strategy is making sure the county is on board with us…the county’s under a lot of pressure to wreck Berlin and get the density up,” said Cosby.

The planning commission also worked on growth areas within town, identifying commercial, mixed use and residential areas.

Planning commission members argued back and forth over how much growth should be planned for in the future.

“It’s all predicated on how many people are invited to the party,” said Commissioner Ron Cascio.

“Nothing’s guaranteed… we’re just drawing on a map,” said Chandler.

The planning commission is facing at least one more work session to go through draft plan text. Berlin’s new comprehensive plan must be completed by October.