Berlin Comprehensive Plan Talk Likely Near

BERLIN – Planning officials say a discussion of the town’s comprehensive plan will follow last month’s growth presentation.

The Berlin Planning Commission is expected to begin reviewing the town’s comprehensive plan in the coming months. Ron Cascio, a member of the town’s planning commission, says he’s hopeful the presentation last month from urbanist and planner Dhiru Thadani has provided citizens with some ideas on smart growth so they can contribute to the comprehensive plan discussions.

“We wanted Dhiru to come and talk to us and help us understand how to maintain the quality of life in an actual small town before we begin discussing the comp plan,” Cascio said.

In April, Thadani visited Berlin and toured the town before developing a presentation for the community. In front of a standing-room-only crowd at the library, he talked about the benefits of form-based codes—which support walkable, mixed-use development—and how a mix of public, civic and private property needed to coexist for a town to thrive. Thadani also spoke in favor of accessory dwelling units, concepts like apartments above garages as well as cottage courts, where a cluster of homes is built together.

“He did a good job explaining conditions that foster the livability of a small town,” Cascio said.

He added that the town could hire Thadani for additional assistance as the comprehensive plan is under review.

While other planning commission members are interested in reviewing the comprehensive plan, they didn’t all appreciate Thadani’s observations. Commission member Pete Cosby said he was disappointed in the presentation, as it hadn’t led to an open discussion. Commission member Newt Chandler objected to Thadani’s support of significant infill, particularly accessory dwelling units.

“I can’t think of anything that would ruin our quality of life more than the infill he wants us to do, stacking people in like cordwood,” Chandler said. “Why do you think Berlin is such a great place if we’re not doing it right? Property values are up because people are fleeing the exact thing Thadani is proposing.”

Commission member Matt Stoehr said he felt Thadani’s presentation was helpful and reinforced some existing ideas.

“We need to grow internally versus continuing to extend/grow Berlin via annexing,” he said. “Sometimes it’s useful to have an outsider come in, take stock and confirm what you already know. It is very unfortunate, and a little perplexing, as to why Heron Park wasn’t discussed. It’s a huge potential growth area within the existing city of Berlin and large piece or property, both physically and financially, that may or may not be sold. Berlin as a whole could have greatly benefited from an outsider’s perspective on the potential usage/future value of that property.”

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.