So much for the bird-in-the-hand approach to Heron Park in Berlin, following a Town Council majority’s rejection Monday of a proposal by developer Palmer Gillis to build a mixed-use project on a portion of the property.
His plan wouldn’t have solved all the park’s problems, but discarding it altogether squanders the opportunity to at least work on it.
The 3-2 vote to end that discussion apparently was because the plan by Gillis did not match what the council wants to do, whatever that turns out to be.
Many months ago, the council did know enough to call for project proposals for three lots on the property and to spell out what those projects should entail.
Of the two bidders who submitted plans, Gillis was selected because he came the closest to following the script the town had laid out. But since then, some council members changed their minds, and appeared to be annoyed that Gillis had not anticipated this shift in direction.
Maybe the mayor and council’s ideas were not well thought out, but it remains that Gillis did what he was asked to do and should have been treated accordingly.
As it is, the real difficulty in this case may have nothing to do with Gillis’s proposal, beyond the fact that his $1.7 million offer for the developable properties won’t pay off the $2.3 million the town still owes on its purchase of the entire tract.
Also a possibility is that the council majority is chasing the impossible dream of trying to make everyone happy. That would require finding someone to pay off the debt by creating a development that won’t compete with downtown businesses, won’t flood the town with new residents by adding scores of homes, leave room for a skate park, preserve plenty of natural space … and still be profitable enough to make it worth building.
In other words, the council had something and turned it into nothing in the hope that a Goldilocks solution will come along with a plan that’s not too hard, not too soft, but just right. If only such a thing existed.