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Small crowd gathers to discuss future of Berlin

Berlin’s strategic plan review process entered its final stage with a community comment session April 15, where a modest crowd discussed the future of the town.

Berlin strategic plan-session

Jessica Iacona, associate director of Salisbury University’s BEACON, speaks to a modest crowd who gathered to comment on Berlin’s proposed strategic plan on April 15.
Charlene Sharpe / Bayside Gazette

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

The final stage of Berlin’s strategic plan process continued this week with a sparsely attended community comment session April 15.

A handful of residents shared their views on the latest draft of the town’s strategic plan with representatives of Salisbury University’s BEACON (Business Economic and Community Outreach Network) at the Berlin library on Monday. They complimented the process and facets of the plan reviewed.

“I think it’s great to come up with a vision like this,” resident Bronwyn Betz said. 

In the first of two community input sessions scheduled for this week, BEACON Associate Director Jessica Iacona outlined the latest draft of the town’s strategic plan, which BEACON has been gathering input for during the last several months. The plan is meant to establish priorities for the town and concentrate the town’s organizational efforts and resources. 

“We envision a town where our heritage, culture, resilience, friendliness and well-being serve as the guiding principles, fostering a vibrant and inclusive community,” reads the plan’s community mission statement. 

The plan goes on to identify each of the community values (heritage, culture, resiliency, inclusivity, well-being and vibrancy) and driving strategies as well as action steps.

“These are really what is driving Berlin for the next five years or so,” Iacona said.

Betz said she thought a strategic plan was a good thing for the town and said she particularly supported the references to the need for a recreation center within the plan. 

“We don’t have that,” she said. “This town is growing. There are so many kids here.”

Her husband Tyler agreed and said many families traveled to Salisbury or Pocomoke to use recreational facilities. 

“An activity center in Berlin is needed,” he said.

He also questioned the references to the need for affordable housing in the area. 

“I think that should be examined more,” Tyler Betz said.

Councilman Jay Knerr agreed and said that the town must determine what constituted affordable housing. 

“It seems to be a myth in our area,” he said. “Developers build housing but it’s never affordable. We really need to dial it down.”

Resident Donna Main said the plan’s references to culture and heritage tied in with efforts already underway by various historic and cultural entities in town to work together moving forward. She said there needed to be even more cooperation in the future, as combined efforts were more likely to receive grant funding. 

“I think more could be done,” she said. “There is money out there for different projects. Sometimes entities are working in silos and not coordinating enough.”

After another input session set for April 17, BEACON is expected to compile feedback to share with town officials. Iacona says her team has appreciated the variety of feedback received and that the process has gone smoothly.

“The town has been awesome to work with,” she said. 

This story appears in the April 18, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.