Berlin, Developer Expected To Discuss Heron Park Property Sale In June

Berlin, Developer Expected To Discuss Heron Park Property Sale In June
A rendering of Gillis Gilkerson's proposed development for the former poultry plant property as of last year. Submitted image.

BERLIN – As the end of a second negotiating period looms, Mayor Zack Tyndall said municipal officials were expected to discuss the potential sale of part of Heron Park within the month.

Tyndall said this week Heron Park should be an item on the agenda for the June 26 meeting of the town council. When asked if it would be an informational item or an action item, Tyndall said it was too early to say.

“It would at least be an update but we’re hoping to be seeking public input as well as action by the council,” he said.

Last spring, the town entered into negotiations with Palmer Gillis’s Coastal Ventures Properties LLC — one of two entities that submitted a proposal for the Heron Park property. Since then, Tyndall, Councilman Jack Orris and Councilman Jay Knerr, along with Town Administrator Mary Bohlen and Town Attorney David Gaskill, have served on a subcommittee to work with the company to negotiate an agreement.

The Gillis proposal offered the town $1.5 million for three parcels — parcel 410, 57 and 191 — and would involve partial demolition of the existing structures to create a commercial project on the site. The trails and pond on the north end of the property would be unaffected.

While the subcommittee has been working with Gillis on his plan to purchase the property, negotiations are ongoing. In January, the council agreed to approve a 180-day extended negotiating period, as the town’s initial six-month agreement with Coastal Venture Properties, which was made in June of 2022, had expired.

As the end of the latest 180-day period nears, Tyndall said the subcommittee continued to meet with Gillis.

“We’ve had a couple more subcommittee meetings and a lot of dialogue,” he said. “I think we’re at the point we should be able to bring something to the council for an update and consideration.”

Tyndall added that he heard from citizens regarding the park frequently and wanted the public to be aware that the subcommittee had been working on the sale of the park since the request for proposals had been issued back in 2021.

“We’re all eager to have some end goal in mind,” Tyndall said.

When contacted this week, Gillis said negotiations were moving along well toward a contract.

“I think we’re 98% ready to go to contract,” he said. “I think all parties are motivated and ready to move forward.”

Berlin officials have been exploring plans to sell at least a portion of Heron Park since early 2021.  The 63-acre property, a former chicken processing plant, was purchased by the town for $2.5 million in 2016.

The Gillis proposal in 2022 included setting aside two acres for an amphitheater and listed potential businesses as restaurants, a garden center, offices, parking, multiuse fields and a dog friendly park.

“We have a small, medium and large version of this,” Gillis said last year.

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.