SNOW HILL – A large commercial project adjacent to two schools should tie into Berlin’s utilities, the Worcester County Planning Commission said last week, and not build its own wastewater and water facilities.
The sketch plan of the Liberty Square commercial development, planned for the east side of Seahawk Rd. opposite Stephen Decatur Middle and High Schools, calls for construction of over 300,000 square feet.
The property abuts the Berlin town border, extended several years ago to encompass the schools, which could make it a candidate for annexation in the future.
Planning commission member Jeanne Lynch asked if the developer had made any attempt to arrange a sewer hook-up with the Glen Riddle sewer system.
Mark Cropper, attorney for Liberty Square developer Dennis Meinhart, also represents Glen Riddle and knows that situation well. The Glen Riddle system does not have enough storage capacity to handle the extensive Liberty Square commercial development, he said.
“It would make perfect sense [otherwise],” Cropper said.
Planning Commission Chair Carolyn Cummins said, “It would make no sense to me.”
The Glen Riddle/Wal-Mart sewer connection is a few miles away from the Liberty Square site. Sewer service for the project should come from the town of Berlin, Cummins said.
Under the Comprehensive Plan, development, both commercial and residential, will be funneled to growth areas adjacent to existing communities. The plan calls for those communities to provide sewer and water service to the new construction.
“I’m not going to disagree with what Carolyn says, either,” Cropper said.
The 2006 Worcester County Comprehensive Plan calls for new development on town borders, Cropper acknowledged, but Berlin does not have any excess wastewater capacity and will not have any available for probably four years.
“You’re included there but you’re not included in the S-1,” Cummins said, referring to the way first-to-be-served properties are designated.
The developer should be looking at Comprehensive Plan compliance, Cummins said.
“I think the Comprehensive Plan’s going to make you deal with Berlin and getting hooked up to the sewer there,” Cummins said.
“We would have no objection to it,” Cropper said.
The project developer had originally hoped for Berlin sewer and water service, but the town cannot supply sewer utilities until the new wastewater plant is finished.
“That’s your major hurdle to overcome,” Cummins said.
“For the record, we would love to hook into Berlin. We would love to be annexed,” Cropper said.
County Attorney Ed Hammond, a Berlin resident, said, “The purpose of a sketch plan is to help applicants and the applicants would be well served to listen to what you’re saying. Berlin’s in a mess now. Everyone knows it. Money always helps people out of messes. Maybe money would help Berlin out of this mess.”
The developer would need to construct a small plant and set-up spray irrigation fields otherwise. The size of the commercial development will be conditioned on the amount of wastewater the site could handle through spray irrigation, Cropper said.
The developer’s plan to construct a small plant on site to handle the massive commercial development’s waste was not well received.
“Is this really what we want as a county? a whole bunch of little plants all around the county we have to operate?” Cummins said. “I don’t see how it’s in the interest of the county to head in that direction.”