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Berlin zoning code changing for future plan

BERLIN – Berlin’s zoning code is about to see some changes to bring it in line with the 2010 comprehensive plan and to clear up language to reflect current usage.
“The zoning code is in a constant stage of revision. Sometimes it’s best to address it as a whole [rather] than little pieces at a time,” said Chuck Ward, planning and zoning director of Berlin.
The comprehensive plan is a projection of the town’s goals in the next 20 years and the 2010 version emphasizes the desire to draw more residents to the business districts without the use of a motorized vehicle.
Ward said most of the existing code complies with the town’s plan, but some notable changes have occurred.
Encouraging cottage housing developments in the town is one the plan’s aims, as it seeks to make way for new developments that would be designed as several single-family homes priced economically to reflect the financial struggles of much of the population.
“It allows people the opportunity to downsize and live in a town where there are plenty of services available,” Ward said.
Based on what Ward has read, there is a demand for such developments in other towns, and he offered assurances that Berlin would not be overrun with cottages and look like a home for collage dormitories.
“If these cottages were scattered around, you could compliment the scale of big Victorian homes,” Ward said.
Ward said a change of code is needed for these developments because the current code only allows a certain number of household units to be placed on a lot. This new code would allow more units per lot.
This is just one of Ward’s plans to move Berlin forward according to its comprehensive plan, but he will not reveal any more ideas until next month’s Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.
Other minor, but significant code changes include the clarification of home occupations and churches.
Under the current code, all religious structures are called churches regardless of the religion of those who use the building.
“You have to be specific and you can’t alienate anymore,” said Ward.
Language will be added for homes that operate as a business, so specific businesses that could disrupt the neighborhood would not be allowed to operate from homes.
Once the planning commission agrees that the new draft language is acceptable, we will have public hearings,” Ward said. Two public hearings for the new code will happen in one month but no specific date has been given.
Michael Day, director of economic and community development for Berlin, said he’s all for anything that would drive up business.
“I haven’t been able to look at the specifics of Chuck [Ward’s] plan, but I think we’re due for a comprehensive rezoning, so I’m hoping it works out well.”