Townhouse Project Moves Forward In Berlin

Townhouse Project Moves Forward In Berlin
A rendering of the townhouse development being planned for Old Ocean City Boulevard. Submitted image.

BERLIN– Plans for a new townhouse development on Old Ocean City Boulevard are moving forward following discussion with the town’s planning commission.

The Berlin Planning Commission on Wednesday voted 6-0 to provide a favorable recommendation for a text amendment that would allow for fee simple townhouse developments in Berlin.

“It’s just another way to develop a townhouse project,” attorney Mark Cropper said.

Cropper proposed the text amendment on behalf of developer Jason Malone, who is pursuing a 28-unit townhouse project on Old Ocean City Boulevard adjacent to Purnell Crossing. Cropper said that at this point, the real estate market had a greater demand for fee simple townhouses—where the buyer purchases the unit and the land it sits on—than units that were part of a condominium regime. The fee simple townhouse is not addressed in Berlin’s code.

“Because your code is silent that’s why we had to submit a text amendment,” Cropper said.

While town staff expressed concerns about converting to a new form of development, Cropper stressed that the text amendment didn’t mandate this manner of development but offered it as a possibility.

“All this provides is an option…,” he said. “This isn’t mandating all future townhouse projects have to be done this way.”

Commission member Pete Cosby said there was a preference among the public for fee simple townhouses.

“We should have the alternative in the code,” he said.

After voting to forward the text amendment on to the town council with a favorable recommendation, the commission moved on to discussion of the site plan for the development. As proposed, the plan shows 28 units in blocks of six and four. Commission member Matt Stoehr said he felt the developer needed to include an overflow parking area, as the three-story units each just have a one car garage and driveway space for one car. Commission member Ron Cascio agreed and said that emergency vehicles had struggled to reach a fire on Washington Street in 2019 because too many vehicles were parked on the street.

“I think you need to address the street parking situation,” Cascio said. “Let’s do it now rather than later.”

Developer Jason Malone said he would incorporate some overflow parking and would also look for opportunities to widen the road into the community.

Commission members also expressed concern with the appearance of the units, which they said didn’t look like they fit in Berlin. Purnell Crossing resident Patty Corson also expressed displeasure.

“These houses look cheap,” she said. “We were told they were going to be comparable to what Purnell Crossing had.”

Malone said the homes would be priced in the high $300,000 range and that there were other exterior options. Commission members suggested he bring renderings that showed the units in blocks.

“I think it’s hard to visualize them when they’re not together,” said Chris Denny, chair of the commission.

The developer agreed to return to the commission with updated renderings as well as landscaping, lighting and stormwater details for the project.