Heron Park Work Session Set For Monday In Berlin

Heron Park Work Session Set For Monday In Berlin
An elevated perspective of the town’s Heron Park property, which was a chicken processing plant for decades, is pictured. File Photo

BERLIN – Town officials will continue discussions regarding the future of Heron Park with a work session next week.

On Monday, Aug. 28 at 5 p.m., the Berlin Town Council will hold a work session regarding Heron Park. The work session, which will focus on a new appraisal and an updated contract for the sale of just parcel 57, comes as talk of a new proposal for the park circulates in the community.

“Although I can’t say who, there is another developer that wants to present the town with a mixed-use plan for the Heron Park properties,” Councilman Jay Knerr said this week. “He currently has an architect working on the design which he hopes to present to the Mayor and Council by the end of the month.”

Since last year, the town has been in negotiations with Palmer Gillis’s Coastal Ventures Properties LLC, one of two entities that submitted a proposal for a portion of the roughly 60-acre park. While Gillis offered the town $1.7 million for three parcels, officials agreed after hearing from the public they were only interested in selling parcel 57, the one with the dilapidated chicken processing facility. After that, officials agreed to have the appraisal done last year updated to reflect the value of parcel 57 with commercial zoning, not the residential zoning it has now. That appraisal, provided to the council earlier this week, sets the value of the 9.3-acre tract at $1.2 million if zoned B-2. That value, however, is tied to what the appraisal describes as “extraordinary assumptions and hypothetical conditions.” The extraordinary assumption listed in the appraisal is that parcel 57 would be vacant.

“The Town of Berlin has received a $500,000 grant to demolish the existing improvements,” the appraisal reads. “There is an extraordinary assumption that the land will be cleared of all existing improvements. The use of an extraordinary assumption may affect assignment results.”

The hypothetical condition listed is that the property has been rezoned from residential to B-2 Shopping District.

While the council is expected to discuss the appraisal as well as a proposed contract updated to reflect the sale of only the 9.3-acre parcel 57, Knerr indicated the council wouldn’t be addressing the other developer’s proposal on Monday.

“At this time, no details have been shared with the Mayor and Council regarding this plan,” Knerr said. “Also due to the fact that we are in an extended negotiation period with Coastal Ventures and bound by the agreement, we can’t engage or negotiate with another developer for the purchase of the Heron Park Properties.”

Knerr said that if negotiations with Gillis ended, however, officials could talk to the other interested party. He also acknowledged this week’s decision by the council to set Heron Park as the future site of a skate park in Berlin. While parcel 410 has been suggested as the logical location, the council has committed to having a skate park somewhere at Heron Park.

“If negotiations with Coastal Ventures should cease then the town would be free and clear to look at all options for those parcels,” Knerr said. “Any future proposal would have to incorporate a skatepark into its design.”

At the last meeting the town hosted regarding Heron Park, Gillis said that despite the change in scope of the project he was still interested. He explained, though, that the price he’d offered for the three parcels, the $1.7 million, took into account the fact that he had to demolish a building and work within development restrictions town officials had included in the contract.

“This has to make economic sense,” Gillis said at the July 24 meeting.

The Berlin Parks Commission has objected to the sale of any part of the park other than parcel 57 while the Berlin Planning Commission has suggested ending negotiations and having a committee of local land professionals consider future uses for the property.

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.