BERLIN – The town is set to make its biggest purchase in recent history as plans to spend $2.5 million on the former Tyson property move forward.
On Monday, the town council introduced an ordinance that would enable the municipality to issue and sell general obligation bonds in the amount of $3 million to fund the purchase. A public hearing on the proposal will be held at the Nov. 9 council meeting.
“It’s not if we’re going to be purchasing the Tyson property, it’s a matter of what date,” Mayor Gee Williams said.
It has been not quite a year since town officials first announced plans to buy the long vacant industrial property on Old Ocean City Boulevard for $2.75 million from Berlin Properties North. In an interview this week, Williams said the price had actually been negotiated down to $2.5 million and would include not only the Tyson facility but also a vacant lot on the south end of Flower Street. Closing is expected to take place in February.
“As part of the deal there’s six acres that comes with that sale,” Williams said. “It was part of the negotiations.”
The six-acre lot is across the street from Henry Park. Williams said officials planned to eventually erect a community center there.
“This is a strategic move for the town,” he said.
Though the property purchase will only cost $2.5 million, Williams said the town was issuing $3 million in bonds to provide some “seed money” for improvements at the 60-acre Tyson property.
“Obviously it’s not turn key,” Williams said. “An initial investment of half a million dollars will get us off to a good start.”
Town officials only agreed to move forward with the purchase of the property after an appraisal and multiple environmental studies to ensure the site would be suitable for a variety of uses. The town is currently awaiting the results of a feasibility study that’s supposed to help officials decide how to develop the land.
“It’ll be the responsibility of the Mayor and Council to come up with the right combination of ingredients in the right order so we not only end up with something that’s a permanent attraction but that is financially self-sustaining,” Williams said.
He said the feasibility study from EDSA, a Florida-based architectural services company, should be complete before the next council meeting and would outline potential uses for the site. Residents shared their ideas for the site in the strategic planning sessions held earlier this year, suggesting everything from hiking trails to a skateboard park.
Williams says a combination of amenities that will work well together will eventually be selected for the large property.
“It’s got to be something that people take pride in that can benefit citizens but it’s also got to be operated like a business,” he said.