Using Program Open Space funds to add more sports fields to the Berlin Little League program as well as the neighboring Northern Worcester Athletic Complex is a good land acquisition for the county to explore.
My only problem with it is something is not on the up and up with how this effort is being presented to the Worcester County Commissioners. At last week’s meeting during a review of the county’s Recreation and Parks Department budget, Director Tom Perlozzo said, “The Berlin Lions Club has approached me and said that Wawa and Royal Farms were interested in buying the property, which is a big concern to the Berlin Little League and the Berlin Lions Club. I’m of the opinion that we should pursue acquiring the property and use Program Open Space (grant funding) for that. That is 100% reimbursable.”
While I think Perlozzo is right on the money, the problem is Royal Farms people made it clear last week no such interest has been expressed. In a Facebook comment on last week’s story, “County Asked To Weigh Acquiring Berlin Lions Club Land,” Royal Farms commented, “Royal Farms is not considering putting a location on Berlin Lions Club land. We would never disrupt any community’s recreational facilities. Also, good luck to the Berlin Little League … this season.” Wawa did not return requests for comment this week.
While there could be some funny business at play to push the county into considering acquiring the property, the end goal is worthwhile. This would certainly not be the first time some misinformation has been used as leverage in a property transaction. Nonetheless, it makes perfect sense for the county to use Program Open Space funds to buy the Lions Club’s 60-acre property, which is directly south of the Little League complex, and add at least two more fields. If the club is intent on selling the parcel, it would be in the best interest of this community for the county to acquire it using open space funding. More athletic fields are needed for recreational sports as well as tournaments.
The Coastal Association of REALTORS® plans to present an online petition to the Berlin Mayor and Council on Monday night. Whether it will have any impact whatsoever is the question.
As of yesterday afternoon, the petition, titled “Say NO to a 20% property tax increase in Berlin,” had been signed by 159 people with a 200-person goal by Monday’s government meeting. While the point is valid, the proposed budget under consideration calls for a 29% property tax increase with a property tax rate of 88 cents per $100 of assessed valuation compared to the current 68 cents. Early documents for Monday’s meeting confirm the mayor’s proposed 88-cent property tax rate is the latest under consideration.
Either way, the petition, which mirrors this paper’s editorial suggestion from last week, reads, “The Coastal Association of REALTORS® is advocating for small, incremental increases to be implemented over several years in order to address Berlin’s budget woes. Berlin property owners, both residents and businesses, have made large investments in the town and they deserve a chance to acclimate to a higher property tax rate.”
The petition goes on to read, “The number of homes sold in Berlin in 2018 compared to 2017 decreased by 3.5%. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of homes sold remained stagnant. The town can’t afford to lose prospective home buyers and current residents, who could possibly flood the market with listings if they decide they can no longer afford to live in Berlin.”