Berlin Council Weighs In On Growth Planner

BERLIN – Plans for a townwide discussion on growth are moving forward in Berlin.

Elected officials shared their excitement this week at the prospect of working with an urban planner to update the town’s comprehensive plan. The council is expected to be presented with a proposal from urbanist and planner Dhiru Thadani later this month.

“I’m just pleased we’re on the road to being proactive,” Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said.

Last week, the Berlin Planning Commission voted to recommend that the town council hire Dhiru Thadani. Ron Cascio, a member of the commission, reached out to Thadani after following his work for several years. Cascio believes the consultant can help residents determine how they want the town to grow in the future.

Currently, the town has $30,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds set aside for a growth discussion, as proposed annexations in recent years have spurred controversy in town, as some residents don’t want to see growth while others note the financial benefits of annexations.

“The planning commission has had several discussions about this growth element,” Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the town council Monday. “At last week’s meeting made motion to recommend to the council they move forward with hiring Mr. Thadani.”

Engelhart said he was waiting on a written proposal and scope of work from Thadani that he could present to the council at their next meeting.

“We all expect this to be layered,” Engelhart said, adding that Thadani would visit the town, write up his findings and then hold a discussion with residents and officials.

Engelhart said Thadani’s findings could help the town update its comprehensive plan. The findings could also come into play as the county adjusts its growth areas.

“This would affect us for annexations moving forward, land use,” Engelhart said. “It’s time that we do something to protect Berlin’s interests.”

Mayor Zack Tyndall thanked the planning commission and Cascio for initiating the conversation.

Councilman Jack Orris said he was looking forward to hearing from the expert as well as citizens. He encouraged them to follow and take part in the discussion. He stressed that community involvement was critical.

“Especially when we’re talking about growth in Berlin,” he said. “It’s just so important to be involved.”

Nichols too said she was eager to begin the discussion.

“I’m very glad we’re trying to be forward moving,” she said.

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.