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Proposed Berlin subdivision plans frowned on

Members of the Berlin Planning Commission showed little enthusiasm for a proposal presented to break a 2-acre property on West Street into several flag lots.

West Street subdivision rendering

Subdivision plans for a 2.42-acre property along West Street were reviewed last week by the Berlin Planning Commission.
Rendering courtesy Atlantic Group

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Members of the town’s planning commission showed little enthusiasm for a group of flag lots proposed for West Street. 

The Berlin Planning Commission last week expressed concerns regarding a proposal presented to break a 2-acre property on West Street into several flag lots. Commission members said having multiple lots share an access would open up a can of worms.

“This is not what we need here,” commission member Ron Cascio said. “You tried, but this is just a mess.”

Chris Carbaugh of the Atlantic Group approached the commission last week to get input on his clients’ plan to subdivide a 2.42-acre property on West Street into four single family home lots. One lot would contain the property’s existing single family home while the other three could be flag lots that could be serve as sites for other single family homes. Carbaugh said he felt the proposal supported Berlin’s aim to have more infill development. He added that the town’s code did include a definition for flag lots and only prohibited them in the historic district. 

“This is a concept plan, very preliminary,” he said, “just to get your thoughts on the flag lot concept.”

Commission member Newt Chandler said he’d been in town a long time and flag lots had always been frowned upon because officials realized if they allowed it for one property others would want to do something similar.

“It opens up the door to everybody that’s got room in the back,” he said. 

Cascio said that since this proposal had been on the agenda he’d already had other people ask him if they could do flag lots on their properties. Commission member Chris Denny said a major issue with the proposal would be the need for stormwater management. 

“The stormwater’s going to have to be addressed before anything else gets built,” he said. “That seems to be the consensus of the people who live there.”

Chandler said the property owners should just attempt to subdivide, which is addressed in the town’s code, if they wanted to build more on the property. 

Resident Ed Hammond told the commission he’d subdivided several years ago and had been told to adhere to different minimum requirements than Carbaugh proposed. Hammond also talked about the extensive stormwater issues already existing in the Bottle Branch watershed. 

“The town has known for more than 30 years that the culverts under Route 113 are undersized,” he said. “What this means, new water that is generated by development in Bottle Branch watershed, if it can’t pool it goes to me and it floods my land.”

Resident Glen Davis said he felt allowing the flag lots was a slippery slope. He said Burley Street, for example, had deep lots.

“Every one of them could come in and say I want to build two houses in the back of my lot,” he said.

Resident Marie Velong said she thought the flag lot proposal was in line with the town’s infill goals but acknowledged that stormwater was an issue in Berlin. 

“We are not paying attention to stormwater management in the least in this town,” she said. “To pretend that we are is incredibly aggravating.”

Carbaugh said he knew there were stormwater concerns in Berlin but that developers were required to address stormwater management when they did projects. He stressed that his clients felt the flag lot proposal was the best way to promote infill development with the subject property. Chandler said they should just try to develop the property under the town’s existing subdivision requirements. 

“If you’re going to do what you’re doing here you need to have a town approved subdivision that meets subdivision requirements,” Chandler said.