Mixed Reactions For Berlin’s Possible Land Buy

BERLIN – Ideas abound for the future of the former Tyson property as the town begins the purchasing process.

Within days of the announcement that the Town of Berlin was planning to buy the former Tyson facility and surrounding property for $2.75 million, residents were talking excitedly about potential uses for the roughly 60-acre piece of property. While a skate park tops the list for those who have spent the past few months lobbying town officials, others are talking about hiking and biking trails, birdwatching and even a new location for the town’s police department.

“I’m so proud of the Mayor and Council for making this step and listening to the people of Berlin,” resident Patricia Dufendach said. “It’s mind boggling what we can do with that if we get it.”

Berlin officials announced Dec. 22 that they wanted to buy the former Tyson property, now owned by Berlin Properties North, to turn it into some sort of public park. The purchase won’t happen, though, until the property has been appraised and environmental and feasibility studies performed. Officials said either party would be able to withdraw from the contract if the need arose.

Although the process has only just begun, many residents are excited about future prospects for the long unused industrial property.

Dufendach, who is a member of Berlin’s parks commission, says every year the commission reports a need for more public space in the town. She hopes to see opportunities for area youth increase if the town buys the land.

“There’s the possibility for Berlin to really make something that’s not just good enough but outstanding,” she said. “Why not reach for the stars?”

Resident and business owner Chrissy Ehrhart also hopes to see the property provide activities for local kids. She mentioned a skate park, a dog park and hiking trails as possibilities for the land.

“I think it’s going to be awesome and it’ll make the town even better,” she said.

Resident Jason Hagy was also excited to hear of the potential purchase.

“I think it’s an excellent idea,” he said.

Hagy sees the site as the perfect spot for a skate park. He says he’s watched children skateboarding in the downtown area, in the street, for years and believes it’s only a matter of time before property damage occurs or a child is hurt.

“There’s no place for them to go,” he said. “If nothing’s done, there’s going to be a problem.”

While most citizens are excited about the potential for the property, some are concerned about the price tag.

Longtime resident Gabe Purnell says the appraisal is critical.

“I feel that the seller should be paid the market value,” he said.

Resident Jason Walter says he’d like to see the now vacant property put to use but is worried about the town’s ability to pay for the land.

“I think for the area it sounds nice, but I believe if the town examines the cost it’s beyond our means,” he said. “A park of this magnitude marks a huge investment for a tiny town.”

Nevertheless, Walter plans to follow the process.

“If a realistic funding mechanism surfaces without negatively impacting town residents, I may get behind it,” he said. “Parks make great additions to the community but what Berlin lacks is a true economic base. It would be better to utilize industrial zoned property for its intended purpose. Industrial zoning and employment opportunity are both limited in Worcester County.”

Mayor Gee Williams said last week that if the town moved ahead with buying the land, it would be financed through the bond market but that some portion of the town’s casino revenues would be used to pay it off. Berlin typically receives more than $200,000 a year in casino revenue.