More Concerns Over Proposed Berlin Apartment Project

BERLIN – Residents continue to voice objections to plans for an apartment complex near the Purnell Crossing townhouse community.

While the developer has met with concerned neighbors and is working on changes to his initial plans for an apartment complex on Route 346, residents of the surrounding area say they’re still opposed. Several attended this week’s meeting of the Berlin Planning Commission to share their objections, despite the project not being on the meeting agenda.

“All the citizens here that live in this community, that have the townhouses and houses, are totally opposed to rental units because it’s going to devalue our houses,” said Wayne Harrison, who lives on Austin Circle.

Harrison and several other residents used the public comment portion of Wednesday’s commission meeting to express their concerns about apartments in the Purnell Crossing area. In March, landowner Troy Purnell, also a town councilman, and builder Justin White presented plans to modify the Purnell Crossing planned unit development (PUD). Instead of the previously approved mix of townhomes and assisted living space, White presented plans for a variety of rental apartment buildings. When citizens complained about the proposal, the commission instructed Purnell and White to meet with residents. They did so Tuesday, but residents on Wednesday said they still objected to the plans, which have been adjusted since the initial presentation. The updated plans include fewer apartment buildings and the addition of some rental townhomes.

Resident Tammy Fitzgerald said she objected to the rental aspect. She also doesn’t like the idea of three-story apartment buildings.

“I rode out to Oceans East and I didn’t like what I saw,” she said.

Harrison said he too was opposed and said Purnell misled residents at Tuesday’s meeting.

“Not until the end of the meeting did they say the townhouses were for rent,” he said.

Purnell said that was a false statement.

“That was not what was said,” he said.

White agreed and said he’d never indicated the project would include anything but rental units. He said that he’d spent months exploring the cost of building the PUD as previously approved but could not find a way to make money building the 19 additional townhouses the already approved plan included. He said building those houses would cost $115 to $125 per square foot. That cost would be added to the price of the land, impact fees, engineering and architecture costs.

“I would lose about $30,000 per transaction,” White said. “It simply does not work.”

Instead, he turned to rental units, which he said would make it a lucrative project.

White said that after hearing the community’s initial concerns in March, he’d delayed returning to the planning commission with the project in an effort to meet with neighbors and address their concerns. He said that was why he hadn’t asked to be on Wednesday’s agenda.

“When I heard some opposition would be in here tonight, I wanted to come so I would be here to give a response,” he said.

Harrison said he supported development but wanted to see smart development.

“I think there’s room for everybody to have input,” he said.

He indicated buffer zones and larger setbacks around the perimeter of the apartments could be considered.

“We’ve got a site plan we’re working on,” Purnell said.

The revised proposal is expected to be presented to the planning commission in May.

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.