Citizens of Berlin,
Our Planning Commission is about to revisit the Comprehensive Plan for an update this year, and we are looking for public input. Berlin is under serious development pressure, mostly from outsiders who’s only interest in Berlin is to monetize our small town way of life.
Berlin’s current Comp Plan, along with the corresponding one of Worcester County, is for us to continue to sprawl outward to accommodate everyone and any business that wants to move here. This is how the once small town of Salisbury started. New York City and all other cities started small yet came to be large by unchecked physical expansion.
For small towns to function as such, size really matters. The rule of thumb is one square mile, and we’re just a bit over that already. This size enables us to be less car- centric, to be able to walk/bike to most things we need, or easily visit friends and family. This scale also provides the stage for the intimacy and social interaction we value in our daily lives and gives us a sense of place. A functioning small town has its businesses and mixed uses concentrated at its core, with density reduced as it moves outward towards its boundary. A small town’s edges are well defined, for now ours is still mostly farms and forests.
To better understand our situation, and help us rewrite our Comp Plan, the Mayor and Council have hired a consultant. We’re very fortunate to have an extremely capable architect and town planner, Dhiru Thadani, close by and willing to assist. Based in DC and having a vacation home in OC, he’s spent time here in our town over the decades watching what’s been going on.
Berlin is at a critical place in time. If we want to continue to be and function as a small town, we need to make some rather radical changes to our Comp Plan. If the livability and the sense of place we know and love is important to us, we need to know that our present plan will put an end to that. We need to understand that the value of Berlin is in jeopardy.
Our town is a gem, who doesn’t see that? Of the many small towns that dot the Delmarva Peninsula, we’re one of the fortunate few. We’ve got what everyone wants, but if we open the doors to accommodate everyone who wants in, we kill the goose that laid the golden egg. We must protect the value of Berlin, both for those of us lucky enough to be born here, and for those who made the conscious decision to move here and invest our families and fortunes in this wonderful small town.
Please make the time to listen and participate in our future, come hear Mr. Thadani explain what we have and how to keep it, Thursday evening April 20 at 6:00 in the meeting room of our wonderful new library. Hope to see you there.
(The writer, developer of the Walnut Hill residential community, has lived in Berlin for 17 years and has served on the Berlin Planning Commission since 2004.)