Berlin’s Harrison Avenue Open Again Due To 1903 Easement

Berlin’s Harrison Avenue Open Again Due To 1903 Easement
Berlin Approves

BERLIN – Harrison Avenue is now open to the public.

Nearly a year after the portion of the street owned by the Adkins Company was blocked off, Harrison Avenue has been reopened. The lumber company removed its barricades Wednesday after being presented with a 1903 easement granted to the town.

“We were glad to get it open,” said the Adkins Company’s Richard Holland. “Hopefully now they’ll pave it.”

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said in a statement he noticed the barriers had been removed Wednesday morning on his drive to town hall.

“Earlier this week, Berlin Town Attorney David Gaskill provided the Adkins Company attorney with documentation that shows the public was granted a legal right-of-way of the entire length of Harrison Avenue from Main Street to Broad Street in 1903, which was 20 years before the purchase of the portion of Harrison Avenue currently owned by the Adkins Company,” Williams said. “The town’s position is that the purchase of the land in 1923 by the Adkins Company in no way nullifies or limits today, or in the future, the public right-of-way for the street that was established under Berlin Mayor Orlando Harrison, who commissioned the establishment of Harrison Avenue in 1903.”

Holland confirmed that the easement had been granted to the town by Orlando Harrison and the heirs of Thomas Adkins.

“It was before our business started,” Holland said.

Because the town has been paving the section of street granted by the Harrison family, Holland believes it should also be maintaining the section granted by Adkins.

“They should have been paving it all along,” Holland said.

He says the fact that the company was expected to pay for paving a street used by the public is the whole reason the Adkins Company put up barricades last June.

“I just felt it was unfair,” he said.

Williams, however, says the Adkins Company will be responsible for paving the street unless the town buys it.

“One of the key reasons the Town of Berlin is attempting to buy this privately owned portion of the highway is to enable the town to not only pave this roadway, but to have the ability in the next couple of years to significantly upgrade all of Harrison Avenue so it meets town standards and will be suitable for the growing motor vehicle traffic the street has, and we expect, will continue to steadily increase in the decades ahead,” Williams said.

Last year, negotiations between the two parties stalled when the Adkins Company set the price for the street at $400,000.

“It is my hope that the removal of both barriers is the first step in the resumption of negotiations between the Town of Berlin and the Adkins Company to purchase the portion of Harrison Avenue that is immediately adjacent to their business,” Williams said.

Holland pointed out that the easement was for 36 feet while the town was interested in purchasing 50 feet. Giving up that much space, Holland said, would impact the Adkins Company’s parking area.

“We’re not of a mind to sell 50 feet,” he said.

Whether negotiations move forward or not, public access to Harrison Avenue will ease traffic between Broad Street and Main Street, particularly along Baker Street.

“It will make a big difference,” Baker Street resident Suzanne Parks said. “They don’t need to go down our street if Harrison Avenue’s open.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.