SNOW HILL – A minor change to the Purnell Crossing development plan sparked concern among residents this week as they started to consider the project’s overall impact.
Though the Purnell Crossing planned unit development (PUD) was approved in 2001, it’s attracted attention in recent months as property owner Troy Purnell has requested modifications to it in response to market demand. In June, he got approval to build a mix of apartments and townhouses on the north portion of the PUD. In July, he asked to replace the 30 single-family home lots planned near The Cottages at Berlin with 22 larger lots. This week, he asked the Berlin Planning Commission to turn seven of those lots into two larger lots.
“Everything else is the same as it was prior,” Purnell told the commission Wednesday.
Nevertheless, residents in the audience said the overall project was going to have a huge impact on local traffic. Davis Court resident Jenny Allen, who said she’d read that each U.S. household had 1.97 to 2.28 cars, questioned how the town would deal with the influx of vehicles. She asked if a traffic study had been done
Purnell said a study had not been done but that Maryland’s State Highway Administration had reviewed the PUD plans. He stressed the project had been approved in 2001, before many of the newer neighborhoods in town.
“It’s always been understood there’d be this density on this property,” he said.
Allen also asked whether improvements would be made to Harrison Avenue in the future, as it was in poor condition and didn’t have sidewalks. Purnell, who is also on the town council, said it was a question of funding. He added, however, that Harrison Avenue was at the top of the town’s priority list.
Resident Myrna Dyson asked whether the project’s impact on schools had been considered.
“The county has been well informed,” Purnell said, adding that his project had been taken into account in the last comprehensive plan.
Resident Jim Hoppa said that like Allen, he was concerned about traffic. He said he’d looked at state figures on Broad Street’s traffic volume and found it already had average annual daily traffic of 2,300 cars a day.
“I think you need to take into consideration volume of traffic,” he said.
Purnell again pointed out the PUD master plan, which portrays townhouses, apartments and single-family homes, had been approved nearly 20 years ago. He said he was just asking for approval to turn seven small lots into two larger lots at the request of a buyer.
“I think this is a good precedent,” commission member Pete Cosby said, adding that he’d like to see even more of the single-family lots shown in the PUD converted to larger parcels.
The commission voted 4-0 to approve the modification. In an interview after the meeting, Purnell acknowledged that while the overall PUD could potentially bring hundreds of new residents to Berlin, he was only focused on completing the single-family portion of the project now. He has no immediate plan to build the townhouses shown on the PUD drawings and says he’s sure there will be more modifications to them going forward.
He pointed out that since its initial approval 18 years ago, the PUD had been adjusted at various times based on the market. Purnell can’t predict when the entire project will be complete.
“I don’t know what the future’s going to bring,” he said. “I can’t tell anybody when it’s going to be built because I don’t know.”
Following heated discussion of the project on Facebook this week, Purnell encouraged concerned citizens to contact him directly.
“If somebody’s got a question, I wish they’d call me,” he said.