By Rachel Ravina, Staff Writer
(April 25, 2019) Purnell Crossing and Austin Circle residents remained steadfast in their opposition to a nearby proposed development project.
A group of homeowners from the two neighborhoods met with landowner and Berlin Town Council member Troy Purnell and Developer Justin White last Tuesday evening by the central mailbox on Sunlight Lane in Purnell Crossing.
The residents’ biggest concern: rentals.
“Well, this is Berlin, not Salisbury,” said resident Paul Chambers. “We don’t want apartment houses.”
Homeowner Sharra Watson said she’d moved to the area from the Philadelphia suburbs, and saw what can happen with rental development.
“This is not what we signed up for,” Watson said. “This is not what we bought into.”
White, owner of Live Oak Builders LLC., was prohibited from speaking during a March meeting at Stephenson United Methodist Church in Berlin.
“We probably made a mistake by not letting him present his plan then, so we’re going to let him present his plan now, and take it forward,” said resident Wayne Harrison.
White added he wanted to use the opportunity at last Tuesday’s meeting to explain some of the revisions that were made to the plans – but he was met with numerous questions and visible anger from residents.
“I understand nobody likes rentals, but if everyone talks over me the whole night, there’s no sense of me being here, and I come here at the request to try and work with everyone,” White said.
At one point, the property had plans for a 100-unit assisted living facility and 19 new townhomes, with the townhomes then becoming a part of the association. However, proposing five new rental apartment buildings, which included one 30-unit building and four 24-unit buildings, brought ire from several residents.
While he revised the plans to include two three-story apartment buildings, consisting of 60 apartment units on the north parcel, and 36 two-story townhomes on the south parcel, they were still rentals, and some said they felt it wasn’t enough.
“There’s no difference between that and apartments in my opinion,” Harrison said.
Overall, resident Kim Fraser said she was pleased with the discussion.
“From what I understand from the last meeting to this meeting, the plans were changed,” she said.
Fraser said she was worried about how a three-story apartment building would “kill property values in Austin circle,” and added she was happy with the unit’s one-story decrease.
Still, Fraser said she had to be realistic.
“Granted, they’ll be rentals, but I don’t know if we can fight that fight,” she said.
When asked about the meeting’s outcome, Purnell said it went “as expected.”
“I think changes have already been made because the same concerns have been voiced over and over. We heard them the first time,” Purnell said. “So we made a bunch of changes in order to accommodate them.”
The plans have yet to go before the Town of Berlin’s Planning Commission, however, the saga continued Wednesday evening during a Planning Commission meeting, when several residents voiced their concerns.
Purnell and White were also in attendance, but the matter was not on the agenda.
“We intentionally did not plan for this meeting to come through,” White said in the meeting last Wednesday.
White also clarified to the commission members that he “abandoned the concept of apartments on Sunlight Lane. They are townhomes.”