BERLIN – Town leaders are working with a developer to ensure a Maple Avenue apartment project can move forward as planned.
The Town of Berlin is working with representatives of the Willows at Berlin on a property transfer that would allow the apartment renovation and expansion to move forward. A title search revealed that a portion of what was thought to be the apartment complex actually belongs to the town.
“We could modify our plan to address it,” said David Holden, representing the developer. “We’d rather not do that. I think we have a plan that works really well. We wanted to see if there’s a way we could come up with a resolution that’s agreeable to the town so we could continue with the project as planned.”
Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the town council Monday the developer had been working with the town for nearly two years on the project, which received site plan approval in January. As proposed the project would include the renovation of the existing Wolf Terrace apartments and the addition of 34 new units as well as a community building.
“It’s a really nice site plan, a big upgrade for the parcel itself and the neighborhood,” Engelhart said.
He said the project was within days of permitting when a title search revealed that the town actually owned a portion of property that was thought to be part of the apartment complex.
“We haven’t maintained that short stretch,” Engelhart said. “We don’t plow it, we don’t fill potholes in it. It’s 11,000 square feet of property. It doesn’t really serve a public purpose. It would influence the project itself being completed because the one building would be encroaching on town property to meet the setback requirements for the whole project.”
In order for the development to move forward, it would need to be redesigned or the town needs to transfer the 11,000-square-foot piece of property to the developer.
Town Administrator Jeff Fleetwood said the town could give the developer the property, sell the developer the property, ask for the project to be redesigned or do a more creative barter. Fleetwood said the developer could pave all of Maple Avenue in exchange for the piece of property. The town could also ask the developer to extend the sidewalk in the area.
Councilman Dean Burrell said before making any decision he’d like to know the value of the piece of property and the cost of the proposed paving and sidewalk work. He said he wasn’t comfortable doing anything without that information.
“But I also think that an arrangement can be entered into with the proper knowledge,” he said. “We need to know what we’re doing and we need to know the possible value to the town.”
Other councilmembers said selling the property to the developer or giving it to them in exchange for paving were the best alternatives.
“I personally would not like to force you to redesign the project,” Councilman Jay Knerr said.
Town staff members are expected to return to the council with the value of the property and the cost of paving once the 20-day advertising period required for the dispersal of municipal property has passed.