The Town of Berlin should not be considering any future annexations until finances concerns are alleviated.
Before the Berlin Planning Commission this week was a 57-home development concept on 45 acres of land off Evans Road. Connections to the property came before the commission to gauge members’ feelings on the project as well as the potential for the land to be annexed by the town to secure town services like sewer.
The reception from the planning commission was negative, and the message sent to the property representatives was on the mark. There are many issues facing Berlin today, including stormwater woes with no easy fix, traffic and parking concerns and significant financial problems.
If the town’s finances were in solid shape, this would be an annexation worthy of consideration. It’s located just outside of town limits near West Street and would be near other homes. The homes in the Franklin Knoll community can be seen from the property. It’s not an outlandish annexation request from a smart growth perspective.
Berlin Mayor Zack Tyndall has been seeking public input from town citizens on a variety of topics including growth and development. It’s acknowledged the town needs a plan to outline its vision for the town moving forward. Public workshops could help shape the town’s future growth models, but the time is not right now to move forward with an annexation of any property, especially one with hopes of becoming 57 new single-family homes.
The developers are victim to poor timing if annexation was the hope. Housing on this parcel is not a terrible idea, though surrounding infrastructure will need major upgrades for the increased vehicular traffic. It would behoove Berlin to annex this property rather than let the county gets the fiscal benefits, but the project needs to be the right fit and the timing is off. We hope the project is not pursued at the county level. We think the developer should scale back the unit density and be patient.
The prospect of this 57-home development reminds us of the recently proposed 176-unit townhome community at the opposite end of town as well as the 80-unit apartment development offered off North Main Street in 2020. These projects are too big and too fast, and Berlin needs time to get its financial house cleaned up.
Officials in Berlin need to focus on the ongoing discussion over user fee increases. Considerable and unfair hits to town property owners are on the table. How much more they will need to pay to the government is on the minds of townspeople not annexation and approving large-scale developments that will carry quality of life ramifications.