Council Approves Text Amendment

BERLIN – Municipal officials approved a change that will provide more flexibility for townhouse projects in Berlin.

The Berlin Town Council last Monday approved a text amendment that will allow fee simple lots within townhouse developments.

That arrangement, officials say, was previously not addressed by the town code.

“We found other jurisdictions around the area have provisions for fee simple lots with townhouses and we did not,” Planning Director Dave Engelhart said.

Engelhart told the council the developer of the townhouse project being planned for Purnell Crossing had approached the town with plans for fee simple lots within the development.

In the town’s other townhouse communities, buyers purchase just their unit, not the yard. Engelhart said the code in Berlin didn’t address the fee simple concept for townhouses and as a result, a text amendment was proposed.

Mark Cropper, the attorney for the developer, told the council the text amendment, while not site specific, would allow his client’s project to proceed.

He said the amendment would allow a townhouse development to be broken up into multiple lots. Previously, those projects have just consisted of one lot covered in stacks of townhouses.

“The project basically looks the same to the public it’s just a different way to convey the townhouses,” he said.

Engelhart said the amendment would not change the minimum lot area.

“So the calculation of how many units you can get on a specific square footage, a specific acreage, has not changed,” he said. “It wouldn’t allow for any denser developments. It just allows for how that property is conveyed by the developer.”

Cropper told the council buyers now wanted to own more than just their unit, which is why the change was being pursued.

“There is a desire by many now to own your own yard with your townhouse versus it being common areas for anybody within the project to basically access,” he said. “It’s more private. It’s just a preferred way to develop a townhouse project.”

He reiterated Engelhart’s comments regarding the number of townhouse units.

“It doesn’t change the density calculations at all,” he said. “We don’t gain any units as a result of this. It’s just a different method by which to convey these units.”

When asked if the proposed text amendment would change any existing developments, Cropper said it would not.

The council voted 4-0 to approve the text amendment.

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.