Commission Supports Bringing Growth Planner To Berlin

BERLIN – An urban designer could help the Town of Berlin plan for future growth.

The Berlin Planning Commission voted 6-0 this week to recommend that the town council hire Dhiru Thadani, a well-known architect and urban designer. The commission wants Thadani to meet with residents and officials to help the town determine how to handle future growth.

“The pressure’s on,” commission member Ron Cascio said. “Everybody’s out of space. We’re having a nice party, and everybody wants to come to it. Eventually you run out of punch, and you run out of room.”

In January, Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the commission officials had set aside $30,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds for a town growth discussion. In the weeks since, Cascio reached out to Thadani, whose work he’s admired for years, and elected officials about the possibility of having Thadani consult with Berlin. Engelhart said town officials wanted to spur a townwide discussion on growth to determine what residents wanted to see in Berlin.

“It makes your job easier if you have more direction,” Engelhart said.

Cascio said the commission had sought planning funding for years. He said working with Thadani the town could pair Thadani’s insight with the views of residents.

“I really would like to make the best use of the $30,000 that’s earmarked for planning purposes,” he said.

Cascio believes the town should work with Thadani and then update its comprehensive plan.

“In doing that, we always seek the input of our fellow citizens,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t hear much, I think it’s because people are running their day to day lives and they don’t really understand the long-term effects of what’s going on in town, particularly today… To have a professional help us understand our situation, our circumstances, would be very beneficial.”

Cascio said that after serving on the commission for years, he was aware that residents want to maintain the livability of Berlin.

“I think this gentleman can help us understand that,” he said.

Cascio said Thadani would spend about two days in town and then formulate a presentation for residents and officials. He said in a recent conversation Thadani had indicated he could get to Berlin in a matter of weeks.

Chris Denny, chair of the commission, said Cascio had been talking about Thadani for years.

“You’ve done the legwork,” he said. “I think it could be a great thing.”

Cascio stressed that the townspeople would have to make an effort to maintain Berlin’s small town lifestyle.

“Salisbury started this small…,” he said. “They need to understand It’s going to require some heavy action to maintain their lifestyle.”

Commission members agreed that they wanted as many citizens as possible to see Thadani’s presentation.

“I think if you write a good ad and put it in The Dispatch and the local rags within the week of the hearing … that’ll bring some people …,” commission member Pete Cosby said. “People do come when there’s a focused issue like that.”

Commission member Matt Stoehr said that when people talked about maintaining the town’s livability they had to consider the financial aspect as well. He said government’s costs would keep going up.

“If we’re able to bring in more tax revenue in a small area where it’s not stretching our services, maybe we can afford the services we have,” Stoehr said.

Cascio agreed that taxes and fees should be a part of the discussion.

“We all know that for the last number of years it’s just been going up like crazy,” he said. “To find a way to maintain our livability in a fiscally sustainable way rather than things going up all the time is the only way we’re going to do it.”

The commission voted 6-0 to recommend the council hire Thadani to visit Berlin and share his observations.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

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.