BERLIN – Mayor Gee Williams assured residents this week that in spite of rumors to the contrary the construction of a campground just outside town was not a “done deal.”
At Monday’s meeting of the Berlin Town Council, resident Cam Bunting, who owns a local real estate company, asked how officials felt about the Carl M. Freeman Companies’ proposal to turn the Bay Club on Libertytown Road into a campground. Williams stressed that town was still waiting for more information on the proposal.
“I keep hearing all these things have been decided,” Williams said. “Whoever is saying that doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
The possibility of the golf course just outside town limits being turned into a campground has been a hot topic in Berlin since attorney Hugh Cropper shared the developer’s plans last year. In December, Cropper told the council his client was considering turning the 36-hole golf course into a 434-site rental campground.
Though Cropper was on the agenda for the April meeting of the Worcester County Board of Zoning Appeals to seek the special exception approval required to move the project forward, he postponed the hearing at the request of Berlin officials.
Williams said that other than a brief conversation with Cropper this week, that was the last time the project had been discussed.
“They totally understand we’re not an uninterested bystander,” he said. “We are the community literally next door. We feel anything done there is within the sphere of influence of our community.”
Williams said the town asked the developer to provide more information regarding the project, its economic benefit and its potential traffic impact.
“I can tell you that. We have a motorhome,” Bunting said, adding that it was impossible to make the turn at Broad Street with a large vehicle.
Williams said town officials were waiting for the information they’d requested and pointed out that at this point the developer could still change plans for the property.
“Anything is possible,” he said. “We’ve said please let us know as soon as you know.”
Dave Gaskill, the town’s attorney, said that if the developer opted to seek annexation into the town that in itself would be a lengthy process.
“It is not a piece of cake,” Williams said.
Resident Carol Rose, chair of the town’s historic district commission, said the town’s citizens simply wanted to be kept in the loop.
“When there’s some sort of a presentation, the public wants to know and they want to be here and be able to voice their concerns,” she said. “That’s all we’re asking.”
Williams said the public would be kept informed and pointed out that that was a normal part of procedures in Berlin.
“We want the public’s input but I also don’t want to put fuel on a fire that hasn’t even started yet,” he said. “That’s what’s a little frustrating. How come so many people out there know so much about something that they don’t know anything about?”
Rose said she’d been assuring residents the mayor and council wouldn’t take action without the public’s knowledge.
Williams attributed the concern regarding the project to the “craziness” in the nation’s capital and said people were looking for a conspiracy that wasn’t there.
“People just assume we’re all out to screw everybody,” he said. “Why? We haven’t changed. We’re the same people. We have the same hopes and dreams for this community and we want the community’s involvement in all major decisions.”
Bunting asked what council members thought of the proposal. Councilman Thom Gulyas said they needed more information.
“I’m not prepared to make a statement one way or the other,” he said.
Councilman Zack Tyndall offered similar comments.
“It’s very early in the process,” he said. “If anybody has anything they’d like to voice feel free to send me an email.”
Bunting said people she’d spoken with didn’t want to see the golf course turned into a campground.
“The merchants I’ve talked to, nobody wants it if it’s a campground,” she said.
Rose said she simply wanted officials to be aware of how concerned residents were about the project’s potential traffic impact.
“It’s a safety issue,” she said, pointing out that Broad Street was already narrow. “If you don’t have sense enough with your own eyes to see how bad this would be traffic-wise then you need glasses. It would be a disaster for this town.”
Williams assured her that the town would share information regarding the project once it was received.