BERLIN — Town Planner Marek Kozikowski has left to become the city planner for Middletown.
"What you did in your 21 months hasn't been done in 21 years," said Steven Biella Jr., an alternate member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, during a meeting just before Kozikowski’s last day Friday.
Kozikowski’s tenure in Berlin was marked by a flurry of new developments and changes to the town’s regulations.
While he enjoyed his time in Berlin, Kozikowski said the opportunity in Middletown was too good to pass up.
"I thought it was a unique opportunity to work in a larger community and a community that has different challenges than the suburban community that Berlin is," he said.
He was hired to lead the Planning and Zoning Department in January 2018 after serving as a senior planner in Greenwich.
"It has been a great experience, a tremendous experience. I feel like we've accomplished a lot here,” Kozikowski said. “I'm proud of the (transit-oriented development) that we've got going on and I'm proud of the work we did creating the Berlin Turnpike Development Zone."Transit-oriented development
The transit-oriented development is likely the largest project Kozikowski worked on during his tenure. It calls for the development of three vacant town-owned properties adjacent to the train station into five mixed-use buildings. The site plan approved by the PZC on Sept. 19 includes a new town road, 8,400 square feet of retail space, 10,800 square feet of office or medical space and 76 market rate apartments.
Mark Lovely — one of the two local developers behind the project — singled out Kozikowski and other town staff for their work.
"Staff has been great to work with. We've had some bumps in the road, but we just keep going to get through them and we've got to get this thing to fruition,” he said.Berlin Turnpikedevelopment
The Berlin Turnpike Development Zone has already prompted approval of the first mixed-use development along the road. The plan includes the demolition of the building that is currently home to Berlin Pizza and a cigar store. It will be replaced with an 18,000 square foot commercial building and 72 two-bedroom homes with detached garages.
Commissioner Timothy Zigmont expressed some concerns about unfinished projects, saying Kozikowski received a great deal of leeway to review projects on his own. Without Kozikowski’s expertise, Zigmont questioned what control the PZC retains over the projects that are in the works.
He also noted that Kozikowski revamped the way filing is done in the Planning and Zoning Department, improving the amount of detail included in town records, saving commissioners and the public from having to delve into meeting minutes and audio recordings to gain more information.Search for anew planner
Town Manager Arosha Jayawickrema said Assistant Town Planner Maureen Giusti will take over many of Kozikowski’s duties as the town evaluates its options for a permanent planner. A listing for the job has been posted internally.
While he has only been in office for a short time himself, Jayawickrema said he’s already heard positive things about the work Kozikowski did, particularly initializing the consolidation and digitization of town records.
PZC chair Joan Veley said they received a flood of applications for the town planner position in 2018, but after the interviews she came away with a clear sense that Kozikowski was the right candidate.
“ He was very thorough, he took care of many of our concerns for us … and so by the time the projects came to us a lot of the details were done,” she said.