Building Surge Confirms Berlin Interest Remains High

Building Surge Confirms Berlin Interest Remains High
A new home is pictured under construction on Bay Street in Berlin this week. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN –  Town staff report interest in Berlin remains high in the wake of the controversial tax increase approved this month.

Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the Berlin Town Council Monday that his department had already received seven building permit applications for new homes. Typically, he said he processes eight to 10 such permits a year.

“To have seven all of a sudden I think is good news…,” he said. “I think that’s good news for our economic health and our town resources.”

In recent months, as town officials discussed various tax and rate hikes, residents and real estate professionals spoke out against what they called drastic increases. Homeowners said they’d be unable to sell their properties. Representatives of the Coastal Association of Realtors agreed that the town’s tax increase would make it difficult to sell homes.

“The real estate industry is a huge factor in your town’s overall economic health and you are scaring away both prospective homebuyers and current homeowners,” Cameron Drew, a member of the board of director for the association, told the council at the last public hearing on the tax rate.

Engelhart said this week that in the wake of comments like those he thought the seven permits being processed by his department were significant. He said that was “a cluster we haven’t seen before” and that it was noteworthy considering the town typically processed eight to 10 a year.

“We all know the cost of building a new home these days is not inexpensive,” he said.

Ivy Wells, the town’s director of economic and community development, offered similar observations.

“Despite everything that’s been going on over the last several weeks it’s really been nothing but positivity,” she said.

She said that as she had helped set up tables and chairs at Berlin’s Reggae Play Day, she’d heard a group of visitors near Gilbert’s Provisions praising the town for setting up tables and chairs for guests.

“The little things matter so much to people you don’t even realize,” she said.

She said there had also been several bus tours that had visited the town in recent weeks. She said on May 20, 80 people had visited the town through two different bus tours.

“It’s just increasing time after time,” she said.

She said the buses typically dropped people off at the welcome center where she and volunteers on duty answered their questions and offered them reusable shopping bags.

“They’re just thrilled,” Wells said. “It just shows everybody loves this town.”

Mayor Gee Williams added that a group of German travel writers had visited Berlin this month as well.

“It’s amazing,” he said. “They can go anywhere they want.”

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.