Berlin, Developers Could Team Up For Comp. Plan Help
BERLIN - The town of Berlin may seek expert help in writing the new comprehensive plan, after a presentation by a nationally known expert caught the attention of a Town Council member and local developers might help foot the bill.
At the Berlin Planning Commission meeting this month, Stacey Weisner, Berlin's Superintendent of Planning and Zoning, who has written the draft plan, floated the possibility of engaging the services of Dhiru Thadani of Ayers Saint Gross (ASG), who spoke before the commission last month.
A draft of the comprehensive plan will be the subject of a public hearing March 28, beginning 6 p.m. at Berlin Town Hall. Copies of the draft are available in hard copy and by e-mail from the planning office.
'This is still very much a draft. We're still missing a few things,' said Weisner, at the March Planning Commission meeting. 'It certainly isn't the best it can be at this point.'
The official public hearing required by law will be held later in the process, said Weisner. The March 28 hearing is merely one in a series of meetings seeking public input on the plan as it is being revised.
A formal hearing will be held after the state comments on the comprehensive plan.
Earlier this month, Weisner consulted Thadani and colleagues on the draft comprehensive plan as a potential client and asked the firm to submit a proposal to redo the comprehensive plan.
'I was the one who suggested it because I thought those folks were so good,' said Berlin Council member Paula Lynch.
Weisner agreed the meeting led to the possibility of hiring the firm.
'We had a wonderful exchange,' she said. 'They were very, very helpful.'
The ASG partners suggested adding more charts and pictures to the plan according to Weisner. She has also added an emphasis on multiple town centers, including the Atlantic General Hospital and Flower Street multi-purpose building areas along with the downtown area, following Thadani's ideas.
Tom Gallagher, vice president of Bay Club owner Carl Freeman Associates, which paid for Thadani's presentation before the Berlin Planning Commission last month, said the company would pick up part of the tab for an outside review of the comprehensive plan, 25 percent of the costs, up to $50,000. Other developers could pitch in as well, he suggested.
'Berlin is going through a very important process. Working in many communities, we know how critical long-term comprehensive planning is for the community,' said Gallagher later. 'Part of our philosophy corporately is to help out the communities where we are active.'
The company has offered the same type of help to Easton, where it is redeveloping the Tidewater Inn.
'That might be a little dicey but I don't know enough to make a comment yet,' said Lynch. 'I think we'd have to look at that very carefully.'
Gallagher said the offer was not made to help the Bay Club development project move forward.
'It certainly doesn't hurt us but there are no conditions on it,' he said. 'If it helps the town, great. If it creates some goodwill for us, great.'
At the planning commission meeting, Weisner also suggested sending staff or commission members to the upcoming Congress for New Urbanism convention.
Gallagher also offered financial help to send town representatives to the event.
'That's very kind of you. We'll certainly take it under advisement,' said Planning Commission Chair Pete Cosby.
Proposals should also be requested from other firms who do the same work, said Commission member Dave Rovansek.
Meanwhile, Weisner urged town officials to spend the money on the comp plan consultant.'You get what you pay for and they are very, very good,' Weisner said.