Developer Hopes To Work With Berlin On EDU Allocation

BERLIN – Despite the limited amount of Berlin sewer service available for development in the next several years, the Purnell Crossroads project on the town’s borders will not pursue a separate wastewater plant, developer Troy Purnell said this week, choosing instead to wait for what he can get from the town.

After the County Commissioners last week restricted Berlin to a single plant, Purnell said he was not sure exactly how he would proceed with the mixed-use project he intends for the former Tyson chicken plant property on Berlin’s northern border. The unused chicken plant on the future Purnell Crossroads site retains an industrial wastewater discharge permit that owner Berlin Properties North (BPN) and Purnell have been careful to retain.

But the 508 EDUs, 127,000 gallons per day capacity (gpd)) necessary for the mixed use, residential and commercial development will come from the town, not the on-site plant, Purnell said.

“We’re included in the growth area. We’re included in the S-1 sewer area for immediate service,” Purnell said.

But only 150,000 gpd total will be added to the Berlin wastewater system over the next 10 years, for a total capacity of 750,000 gpd, according to the County Commissioners, enough to serve an additional 600 EDUs.

“It gets them started, which is a good thing,” Purnell said.

The developer said he needs 150 EDUs for the first phase of Purnell Crossroads, which he hopes to get in the first round of available capacity after the system is upgraded and capacity is expanded.

“I need 150 to get going, then another 150 after that, then the balance of 200. It’s a 10-year project,” Purnell said.

If the Berlin plant only expands to the .75 mgd currently approved over the next decade, Purnell could be waiting for that capacity. His total sewer needed for Purnell Crossroads is about 85 percent of the new EDUs.

“We’re working on how the new capacity will be managed. The thought is we’ll limit the number of hook-ups per year on the residential side,” Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary said.

“That’s the next decision, the EDU allocation policy,” said Berlin Council Vice President Gee Williams. “We’ll probably have to have an expansion down the road earlier than we hoped, but we have to deal with the reality.”

The town is currently permitted to serve 2,400 EDUs, with about 2,000 EDUs (500,000 gpd) in use, and the remainder reserved for infill lots in the town limits.

The town originally proposed expanding the sewer system to 1.4 million gallons per day (mgd), not .75 mgd, but the lower number is not written in stone. The plant will be built to allow later expansion.

“We have to deal with the fact the initial expansion might not last as long as the original idea,” Williams said.

The Tyson plant industrial permit, originally set to expire in August 2008, was recently granted an indefinite administrative extension when it appeared that the expiration date could complicate Berlin’s request for an amendment to the Worcester county water and sewer plan. The amendment needed to include language acknowledging the renewal of the permit as consistent with the water and sewer plan, BPN attorney Mark Cropper informed the County Commissioners earlier this month, when they first considered the plan amendment.

With the permit indefinitely extended, the need for that language vanished, but Purnell Crossroads hit another roadblock after the sewer service proposal took an unexpected turn.

After the commissioners’ decision against the two-plant initiative, which was proposed by Purnell last spring, Purnell Crossroads’ access to sewer capacity and guarantee of annexation became much less certain.

The plan hashed out between BPN and the town of Berlin over the last several months called for two plants, a new one million gallon per day (mgd) facility to be built at Purnell Crossroads, with the town’s existing plant upgraded for better nutrient removal, intended to handle only 400,000 gallons per day, for a total of 1.4 mgd. 

With the industrial permit in hand, Purnell’s other option is to operate or sell the plant as an industrial facility. The current discharge permit allows 800,000 gpd of treated industrial effluent to be disposed of in Kitt’s Branch.

In order to operate an industrial facility there, the state would have to approve any change in the permit, unless the use of the plant did not change.

Purnell has said repeatedly that he does not want the industrial use to continue on that site. A mix of residential and commercial property is better for the town than industry at that site, Purnell believes.

“What he wants to do with the property has always been supported by the Mayor and Council,” said Williams. “I’ve heard no one say that’s not a really good use for that property.”

Purnell said the town and he share the same vision for the property.

“I think everyone’s vision’s the same. It’s the path to get there that everyone’s got to figure out,” said Purnell.