Berlin Library Fence Approved Due To Neighbor Concerns

Berlin Library Fence Approved Due To Neighbor Concerns
The new Berlin library branch is pictured in a rendering, which shows a fence along the left side serving as a divider between the library and a neighboring residential development. File Rendering

BERLIN –  Town officials this week approved the addition of a fence to plans for the new Berlin library.

On Wednesday the Berlin Planning Commission voted 3-2 to revise the site plan for the library to include a 428-foot vinyl fence. The fence will be installed between the library’s parking lot and the homes on Brittany Lane.

Councilman Troy Purnell told the commission that early drawings of the library had shown a fence between the parking lot and nearby homes.

“It was shown on the renderings,” he said. “My constituents would like to see a fence there.”

Though the request to add the fence was presented by commission member Ron Cascio, who recused himself so that he could represent the Worcester County Library Foundation, he made it clear the library preferred natural screening to a vinyl fence.  He said the library’s original site plan called for a row of cedars between the parking lot and the homes on Brittany Lane.

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“They would do a better job over time,” he said.

Brittany Lane resident Ross Palmer told the commission he and his neighbors wanted the fence as a barrier between them and the library’s parking lot.

“It’s pretty daunting to have a parking lot in your backyard,” he said.

Cascio said the fence would be difficult to install because of grade changes on the property.

“We like our original proposal,” he said.

When commission members asked why there was a request for a fence if the applicant didn’t want it, Planning Director Dave Engelhart said the issue came up at a public outreach meeting hosted by the Worcester County Library.

“The library board said they would put up a fence,” he said, adding that while it was not on the site plan, a fence had been included in one of the project’s early renderings.

Purnell offered similar comments and said he was surprised by Cascio’s statement that library officials didn’t want a fence.

“What happened was the residents came to me as the council person and said ‘hey what can you do about this,’” he said. “I talked to the mayor. The mayor went to the county commissioners. A couple county commissioners got together and they all agreed it’d be a good idea. It surprises me that you’re not representing that request, of them wanting this, because I think that’s my understanding is that the commissioners do want a fence.”

He added that more residents than Palmer wanted to see the fence built.

“They would have all been there if I thought this would not be a slam dunk,” Purnell said.

Cascio maintained that the library board preferred natural screening to vinyl fencing.

Commission member Newt Chandler pointed out that when the site plan had been approved, no residents came to express concern. He said adjusting the site plan now could set a bad precedent.

“It’s already been through the process,” he said.

Commission member Pete Cosby said he didn’t want to see a vinyl fence installed. He said that regardless of who was requesting the fence, he saw it as the commission’s duty to determine whether that fence was good for the town.

“It’s not good for the public welfare to have a bunch of gleaming white fences everywhere…,” he said. “It’s not conducive to a nice green neighborhood feel.”

Commission member John Barrett argued that area residents had likely seen a rendering of the library that featured the fence.

“The rendering had it,” he said. “It was misleading to the neighbors.”

Chandler asked if the fence issue could be tabled temporarily. He suggested giving the library time to plant its preferred vegetation to see if that addressed the neighbors’ concerns.

Barrett said it would take years for trees to grow large enough to serve as a buffer between the parking lot and the adjacent homes. Purnell stressed that a fence had been shown on project renderings and should be installed.

“You’ve got a public parking lot that’s going to be impacting the neighborhood,” he said.

Barrett made a motion to approve adding the fence to the plans and it passed 3-2, with Cosby and Chandler opposed.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the commission also approved changes to the Purnell Crossing development and approved plans for a new warehouse on Evans Road.

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.