New Berlin Development Sparks Traffic Pattern Concerns

New Berlin Development Sparks Traffic Pattern Concerns
Ninety-four of the 108 available units at Ocean’s East on Seahawk Road are reportedly leased, according to developer Blair Rinnier. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN –  Town officials expressed concern regarding traffic patterns near a new apartment complex on Seahawk Road.

As developer Blair Rinnier approached the Berlin Town Council to buy sewer capacity to continue construction of Ocean’s East on Seahawk Road last week, council members used the opportunity to criticize traffic flow in the area.

“In my humble opinion, it really needs work,” Councilman Dean Burrell said. “The way it’s lined and striped it’s a disaster waiting to happen.”

As he approached the council with a request for 24 EDUs (equivalent dwelling units) last Tuesday, Rinnier said he’d been trying to make the request for weeks.

“Over the past many months, I’ve been in conversations with the Berlin administration about irrigating from the pond at the Ocean’s East community,” Rinnier said. “I’ve asked to be placed on the last four council meetings. Two of these meeting dates I was confirmed to be on the agenda and at the last minute removed from it, resulting in me being denied the last four council meetings. I asked for two meetings with administration and didn’t get them…. Each time I asked to be placed on the agenda the criteria changed and I’m denied the hearing.”

Officials didn’t acknowledge the delay but asked Rinnier how the project was going.

“It’s going well,” Rinnier said. “We’re excited about it. We have good interest.”

He said that of the 108 currently available units, 94 were leased.

Burrell was the first to express concern about the roadway in front of the apartments. He said the lane configuration was confusing, particularly to drivers not familiar with the area.

Rinnier said that the striping had already been reworked once at the town’s request.

According to Planning Director Dave Engelhart, the town’s engineers were still working with the site contractor because of concerns about the road.

“The surface of the road itself is as we described it, washboard in many areas,” Engelhart said.

He added that road was also being damaged by vehicles not following the correct traffic pattern.

“At the entrance there, we see a lot of truck traffic where you’re not supposed to be able to make a right turn going in from Flower Street which was part of the agreed upon site plan, the deal if you will, is being used,” he said. “It’s tearing up the surface there. Based on our comment and observation of that, they went ahead and were putting curbing in there.”

Councilman Elroy Brittingham said his biggest concern about the road was traffic safety, especially because of the schools in the area.

“The directional traffic pattern is so confusing right there,” he said. “I’m just waiting for an accident to happen … I don’t know how you got approval for the way the traffic flows. I drive it every day just about and I get confused sometimes myself.”

Rinnier said the road had been constructed as originally approved during the site plan process.

“Since then we met with the school district and the town to change some of the striping,” he said.

Rinnier added that he was happy to resume the conversation if officials continued to have concerns about the road. The council voted unanimously to approve his request for 24 EDUs.

In an interview this week, Mark Cropper, Rinnier’s attorney, said that while there had been some issues with getting on the council agenda, his client was pleased to get the EDUs necessary to continue construction at Ocean’s East. He added that Rinnier’s mention of irrigating with the Ocean’s East stormwater pond hadn’t been discussed because town officials determined it did not need to be addressed.

According to Town Administrator Laura Allen, though staff initially had concerns about Rinnier using the pond to irrigate the property Rinnier had gotten a permit to do so from the state.

“It was a new item for us,” she said. “It took a little time for us to work that out.”

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.