BERLIN — A site plan that first came before the Berlin Planning Commission in 2009 and received preliminary approval then was back in front of the same group this week.
The original approval had lapsed in the four-year hiatus taken by the developers, but the plan was unanimously re-approved Wednesday, though like in 2009, only on a preliminary level.
Led by developer Main Street Homes LLC, the proposed community would include 40 residential units and be located between Tripoli and Bay streets off Route 113. While it would be a major development for Berlin, Planning and Zoning Director Chuck Ward told the commission that the new community shouldn’t cause a serious disturbance to neighbors.
“So there’s minimal to zero impact on those adjacent properties with the exception that any development has increased traffic and some impact. Forty residential lots, by national averages, would generate approximately 400 vehicle trips per day,” Ward said.
In summarizing the project, Ward said that the development is in good-shape by his department’s standards, though there are a few wrinkles that still need to be ironed.
“There’s nothing here that is unresolvable, in staff’s opinion,” Ward remarked. “There are issues that should be addressed but there’s nothing here from a zoning perspective and PUD (Planned Unit Development) standards that’s a deal-breaker.”
One area where some resolution will have to be found is a proposed dead-end street in the community. Because it currently lacks a cul-de-sac, which the town requires, Ward explained that Main Street Homes will either need to re-design the street or seek a variance from the council.
“The town does have standards for a dead-end street. There’s no cul-de-sac … the planning commission does not have the authority, based in the code, to grant a variance from the town standards for a stub street,” Ward said. “Currently a dead-end street in the town would require a cul-de-sac.”
Consideration must also be given to how easements might be granted or space left available for the adjacent property owners to further develop.
“Rough measurements indicated to me that there’s a possibility for six new lots to be created by these four property owners along that town0owned street,” said Ward, “which would encourage more growth, more development in the neighborhood should they choose to do so. But with the open space fee-simple lot that was proposed this would never happen.”
Ward pointed out that if the area directly behind the four property owners remains an open space then it would likely have landscaping or fencing installed which “would eliminate the adjoining property owners from being able to access or develop off of a town owned street.”
Since some of the property owners in that area are at least interested in keeping the possibility of further development open, Main Street Homes President David Dombert told the commission that his company will be keeping their wishes in mind as the site plan moves beyond the preliminary stage.
A final area where the commission needed re-assurance before approval was with the development’s stormwater situation. Earlier this spring, Berlin granted Main Street Homes an administrative waiver allowing them to follow prior, more lenient stormwater regulations. The town justified the waiver by pointing out that the developers had most of their stormwater work done four years ago with the original site plan. Planning Commissioner Ron Casio admitted Wednesday that despite the town’s position he still had some “heartache” with the waiver.
“It’s come to the point where we’ve had a stormwater utility thrust upon us where in order to accommodate or fix things that happened or didn’t happen previous to this, the town is sticking their hand in everybody’s pocket so we can fix these problems,” he told Dombert. “And it pains me that this project is going to come under the old stormwater regulations. And I’m wondering if you’ve looked at what it would take to follow the new stormwater regulations.”
Dombert began by stressing that the town waiver was only granted because the 2009 site plan was “within 5 percent or so, 10 percent, of an approval” of the then-current stormwater regulations. The new regulations, which Berlin adopted in 2011, would negatively impact the development without offering much of a difference in practical application, he claimed. The central pond in the community, for example, could not remain filled under the new regulations.
“The new regulations would require this pond to be a dry pond. We want this pond to be a wet pond because it’s an amenity that all of these homes are facing,” said Dombert.
Besides the central pond, there will be a second “wet” pond on site as well as two submerged gravel wetlands for stormwater management. Though the development will only have to meet the 2009 stormwater standards, Dombert assured the commission the measures they have planned would manage all of the stormwater.
The commission was satisfied enough to unanimously give Main Street Homes preliminary approval.