Berlin Looks To Tackle Zoning Code Revisions

BERLIN — Looking to buckle-down on the process of revising Berlin’s zoning code the town’s Planning Commission decided this week to have monthly meetings to discuss alterations.

The commission met Wednesday after a six-month break. Work on revisions did not halt during that time, however, with Chuck Ward, director of planning and zoning, drafting about 75 pages of town codes.

“The town code has been completely re-numbered and re-organized and that happened in the middle of me revising [chapter] 107,” he said. “It’s now chapter 108. The reference numbers are all different. It’s all totally different than when I started.”

Ward added that the 75 or so pages the revised zoning code currently stands at aren’t all alterations with many passages borrowed directly from the previous code. He expects a final document to be between 90 and 100 pages.

The commissioners expressed satisfaction with the steps Ward has taken so far but agreed that they need to meet more frequently as a body to hone the code so that it may be finished in a reasonable timeframe. There is no hard deadline for finishing revisions, though dragging them out for too long would be disruptive, according to Ward.

Because of the intricate nature of the code and the possibility for conflicting points of view amongst the commission, the body agreed that they would all need to go through the document one section at a time.

Already some contention is evident over revisions like language regarding cottage housing in Berlin. Commissioner Newt Chandler wondered why distinctions need to be made between cottage codes and traditional Planned Unit Density (PUD).

“Somebody has an agenda to lower these densities even further than what the current PUD allows, is that true?” he asked Ward. “Somebody is driving this bus.”

Commissioner Ron Cascio interjected that he was the one who first asked Ward to think about cottages and asserted that a distinction must be made between cottages and PUD because “it’s a completely different animal.”

“There are certain parameters that you need to have with smaller housing and the parking that aren’t just willy-nilly,” said Cascio. “I think you need to have some guidelines.”

Chandler relented but said he still has concerns over cottage housing in Berlin comparing such a development to a “hobbit village.”

The commission now plans to meet regularly to focus on code revisions until they reach a consensus at which time they will host a public hearing. After the hearing if there is still a consensus they will forward the revisions to the Town Council for review and possible adoption.