BERLIN – Berlin’s comprehensive plan is getting closer to completion, but both the Berlin Planning Commission and Berlin Mayor and Council still have work to do on the land use document before the draft is ready for public comment.
The planning commission went over the draft comprehensive plan Wednesday night during a work session to voice concerns and suggestions.
The placement of growth areas and a green belt around the town dominated the two-hour discussion.
Planning Commission Chair Newt Chandler questioned consultant Tim Bourcier’s placement of the town growth areas, which conflict with designated areas selected by the Berlin Mayor and Council in 2006 during the county comprehensive plan process.
Commission member Pete Cosby called the growth areas as placed by Bourcier the starting point of a discussion, not the final word.
“I will tell you it has a number of inconsistencies,” said attorney Joe Moore, who spoke on behalf of three clients.
The areas designated by the consultant do not match the growth areas agreed to by the town council, which were incorporated into the county comprehensive plan, according to Moore.
The growth areas around town are meant to accommodate a projected 7,800 more people over the next few decades, according to the county.
“Personally, I still have my doubts whether all those people are coming here,” said Planning Commission alternate Ron Cascio.
While support from the planning commission for a green belt around the town was strong, just what that meant or how it could be achieved came under question during the work session.
Chandler said his idea of a green belt was a strip of land for hiking and biking, extending around the town, not 150-acre tracts of land.
Cosby said he had a broader view of a green belt, which would preserve Berlin as a distinct entity from the area around it and also provide an interconnected path around the town.
“What defines the town is the perimeter fields,” said Cosby.
A green belt would also limit development on town borders.
“How big do we want Berlin to be?” asked Cascio.
“That’s always been the question,” Chandler said.
The green belt would have to wait until a bordering property owner asked for annexation, Chandler said.
Adding plans for a green belt to the comprehensive plan ensures that the intention will not get lost over the next few decades.
“It’ll become a 20-year agreement. That’s what makes us strong,” Cosby said.
Energy issues also need to be made part of the comprehensive plan, Cascio felt.
“Energy is not even addressed in the plan at all. I think energy issues in the 21st Century are part of everything we do,” said Cascio.
Planning and Zoning Superintendent Chuck Ward suggested that a separate energy plan be created and referenced in the comprehensive plan.
“An energy element in the comprehensive plan is definitely beyond the scope of the law, what’s required, and is definitely beyond the scope of the consultant contract,” Ward said. “To include that in the document would probably be overwhelming.”
Staff will take the discussion points and recommendations back to the consultant to amend the draft plan.
The council will meet with the planning commission soon to go over the draft.