The Berlin Township Board of Trustees listened to residents for nearly four hours at two public hearings in the Grace Point Community Church Thursday.
The hearings were over zoning amendments to the proposed Berlin Business Park — one for an Industrial Overlay, the other for a Commercial Overlay.
“These amendments have been initiated via motion of the Berlin Zoning Commission and are proposed to be amendments to the Berlin Township Zoning Resolution,” the public hearing notice states.
The Delaware County Finance Authority (DCFA) and the Delaware County Office of Economic Development seek to partner with the township to achieve what it calls “Smart Growth.” The DCFA, in a handout at the hearing, defines Smart Growth as “attracting the commercial and residential growth that adheres to the desires of the community, while diversifying the tax base to secure funds for school districts, communities, and infrastructure.”
One of the strategies used to achieve that end is the creation of overlay zoning, which the DCFA calls “a critical step in the planning process. This overlay along a designated corridor creates zoning for the types of uses and densities desired in the area.”
Residents were given three minutes each to speak. Some had prepared comments they passed out to the trustees, and one offered an alternative plan. Most of the people said they were fine with commercial development in the form of restaurants, retail shopping and office space; but they had concerns over industrial uses, semi trucks, apartments, the lack of recreational opportunities, and the potential of residents not being able to have a referendum.
One resident warned, “This will become another Polaris.”
Another resident wanted answers from the trustees on what they thought about the plans.
Trustee Ron Bullard said, “We need to do more homework. I’m not ready to move forward. At this point, I can’t support it, but we can work to make it usable, hopefully something we can all support.” He said the easy thing would be to say it doesn’t fit with our plans and reject it out of hand, but he wanted to “get ahead of the development before it happens.”
Trustee Tom D’Amico said, “I don’t want this to be a debate.” He stated a decision wouldn’t be made until summer at the earliest.
Trustee Ken O’Brien said, “As it is written now, I wouldn’t approve it. But I am for a cloud. There are a lot of benefits to a cloud. Until I see the design standards, I can’t say one way or another.”
County Economic Development Director Bob Lamb said they would create design standards for the proposed business park. The DCFA said design standards “set the bar” to “define the quality” of any development.
No action was taken as both amendments were tabled, and the public hearings will resume at 6 p.m. on April 9 and April 23, both at the Berlin Township Hall, 3271 Cheshire Road, Delaware. Bullard added there will also be an open work session at 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 10, in the township hall.
Gary Budzak may be reached at 740-413-0906 or on Twitter @GaryBudzak.