BERLIN — After weeks of debate and competing alternate solutions about how to best define a neighborhood, the Berlin Mayor and council this week changed the course of the debate by eliminating the finesse with which they’d been struggling and proposed a new building height standard altogether.
In March members of the Town Planning and Zoning Boards appealed to the Town to revisit their building codes and address them in terms of neighborhoods rather than with town-wide standards. The Council consented to hire a company to develop a “pattern book” that would divide the Town by neighborhood character to better guide the Boards’ decision making process when it came to basic projects as well as to variances by delineating the character of a neighborhood.
This week, however, the discussion took another turn as the Council decided to just consider changing the height restriction to 35 feet town-wide and be done with it.
After an objection to some of the language by Mark Cropper, the attorney representing parties seeking a variance, Councilman Troy Purnell suggested that rather than worry about neighborhoods the Council just extend the footage to 35 feet.
Gaskill, who, along with Purnell, had not been present at the meeting wherein the changes were made, agreed that the language of the proposal had become convoluted and saw no reason the council should make the blanket change and leave the case-by-case decisions to the Planning and Zoning Boards.
Mayor Gee Williams agreed. From the outset, he said that the difference between 30 feet and 35 feet were indistinguishable in the overall picture.
Because it was a public hearing, however, and because the changes were so different than the proposals that had been posted, Gaskill recommended that the public hearing should be rescheduled so the new rules could be published.
The Council is expected to make the decision final at the May 14 Council meeting.