BERLIN – Town officials remain concerned about traffic issues associated with a new apartment complex on Seahawk Road.
As they have at several recent meetings, members of the Berlin Town Council on Monday voiced concerns regarding road conditions and traffic patterns at the Oceans East development on Seahawk Road.
Mayor Gee Williams said the town was committed to ensuring the right solution was found.
“We’re not looking for cheap we’re looking for effective,” he said.
Monday’s discussion arose after Planning Director Dave Engelhart told officials that as they’d requested, he’d approached the State Highway Administration (SHA) about the project.
“It’s as I thought,” he said. “Since Seahawk Road is our road, at the entrance there (to Oceans East) they hadn’t reviewed and approved anything.”
He said SHA had only reviewed and approved the improvements to Seahawk Road’s intersection with Route 50. He added, however, that town officials had met with the Oceans East site contractor and paving contractor this week. He credited Jamey Latchum, Berlin’s stormwater and wastewater superintendent, with making the town’s position clear.
“He stood up for the town forcefully and said it was unacceptable what was there as far as the condition of the road surface,” Engelhart said.
As a result, the project’s contractors agreed to remedy the situation and have a two-part plan to do so. They will first try to heat and roll out any imperfections in the road. If that doesn’t work, they’ll mill and overlay the road. Engelhart added, however, that both of those processes would have to wait until spring when the weather was warmer.
Engelhart said he’d asked SHA about putting curbing in the median of Seahawk — as council members suggested last month — to prevent traffic from entering and exiting the development in an improper manner. When the project was approved, officials stipulated that it should be accessible only to vehicles coming from the direction of Route 50. Cars leaving the complex are required to turn right as well. Both measures were designed to keep traffic off Flower Street.
Engelhart said SHA officials didn’t see a need for curbing in the center of Seahawk.
“They didn’t think that was necessary,” he said. “The striping is adequate.”
He said they’d instead suggested reflective bumpers like those that used to be on Route 113 near Franklin Avenue.
“We’re not going back to that,” Williams said. “I raised hell with them about that. That’s not an option. Whatever’s cheap is always going to be offered.”
He stressed that people who didn’t live in the area couldn’t truly understand the issues. He asked whether the council should continue discussions on ways to ensure that vehicles followed the permitted traffic pattern in front of Oceans East.
“It’s something for the developer to consider,” Councilman Dean Burrell said. “Because when his project was being considered he sat there and promised us that traffic would go out of that development and would have only one way in and one way out. Like the mayor said, we’re not looking for cheap we’re looking for effective. The curbs in the middle of the highway need to be put back on the burner. That is the only way to ensure that that traffic goes the way in which it was planned. I have seen and watched people make that U-turn.”
Burrell said he thought the problem could be addressed by curbing in the median, similar to that on Route 589 in front of the Delmarva Health Pavilion.
Engelhart said he thought that the raised curbing installed recently at the entrance to the apartment complex had addressed that.
“It’s still possible to make that turn but it’s a lot more difficult,” he said. He added that if that proved insufficient the developer would have to address the issue.
In an interview later this week, Mark Cropper, the attorney representing developer Blair Rinnier, said they were pleased with the project and have been working closely with the town. He added that potential traffic issues had been discussed extensively during the project’s planning stage.
“Prior to project approval and having heard concerns about how the project may impact Seahawk Road and Flower Street, my client and the town negotiated a very detailed annexation agreement, certain provisions of which mandated specific road improvements and signage along Seahawk Road in an effort to be responsive to those concerns,” Cropper said. “As far as I am aware, my client is in compliance with the mandates of the annexation agreement and has properly completed those items.”
He added, however, that Rinnier was willing to discuss any concerns.
“Regardless, and in an effort to be responsive to ongoing concerns apparently being expressed, my client remains ready, willing and able to meet with the town to discuss these matters,” Cropper said. “I believe that my client always has been and will continue to be reasonable when dealing with matters associated with this project, whether related to the Seahawk Road improvements or otherwise. A good working relationship is in everyone’s best interests.”