Berlin Updates Design Standards

BERLIN – Officials approved updates to the town’s water, sewer and roadway design standards this week.

According to Jane Kreiter, the town’s director of public works and water resources, the standards are updated periodically. The most recent revisions were in 2009.

“Because we’re in the midst of quite a few projects we wanted to make sure everyone’s on the same playing field,” she said.

The consideration of minor updates to the town’s design and construction standards for water, sewer and roadway systems came immediately after the town council’s decision to spend $95,000 to build a fence and buy land for a walking path near Cannery Village. Council member Lisa Hall suggested that after-the-fact fixes such as that one might not be needed if the town was stricter about making developers follow its construction and design standards. She pointed out that Cannery Village had gotten approval to deviate from town standards on road width.

“There’s a reason we adopt this stuff,” she said.

Hall said it was when the planning commission and the board of zoning appeals granted exceptions to town standards that problems arose.

“That’s when things happen that create the problems because we’re getting away from the design and standards we’ve approved,” she said.

Dave Gaskill, the town’s attorney, said that all such exceptions were approved by the mayor and council.

“If I’m the only one voting no what am I doing?” Hall replied. “I have a problem when we adopt something and don’t follow it.”

Councilman Dean Burrell said the past could be debated all night long but that it was the council’s responsibility to make decisions.

“This is why we are revising these standards to try to make the playing field crystal clear and the same for everybody so we won’t have those folks coming to us,” Burrell said. “It is incumbent on us to follow our own rules.”

Mayor Gee Williams agreed.

“There have been exceptions made,” he said. “Maybe in some cases they made sense maybe in some they didn’t. That’s a part of the constant evolution.”

Burrell added that while the council was made up of individuals it made decisions collectively.

“We’re all responsible,” he said. “We are responsible collectively. An individual on this council has no authority whatsoever. It’s the authority of the mayor and council. As we’re deviating from our standards that’s our responsibility.  That’s the way this thing works. If it’s a finger pointed at Cannery Village’s entrance and road, it’s us that did it.”

Councilman Elroy Brittingham agreed.

“That’s why it was our responsibility to go back and please the residents,” he said.

Williams said the town’s standards were updated periodically and could be adjusted any time town officials became aware of a potential issue.

“There’s no reason that if a year from now or two years from now if we find something’s not working we do have the ability to upgrade them from time to time,” he said.

Williams added that most of the time developers didn’t ask to deviate from the town’s standards.

“Being the United States of America anybody can ask for anything,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s going to be approved. Sometimes there are just unusual circumstances…We’re here to try to interpret what is in the best interest of the public.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.