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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Town to demo Tyson plant itself

The council voted against the plan proposed by Coastal Ventures Properties and will move forward on its own with the demo of the old Tysons plant.

Officials wonder how much can be done with $500K and where to begin work

By Cindy Hoffman, Staff Writer

(Sept. 7, 2023) The town of Berlin is proceeding with plans to demolish all or part of the Tyson poultry plant building on Old Ocean City Boulevard after a vote by the council on Monday, Aug. 28 ended negotiations with Palmer Gillis of Coastal Ventures Properties for the development of the site.

Mayor Zack Tyndall said Town Administrator Mary Bohlen is coordinating with engineers from Davis Bowen and Friedel to develop the request for proposals from demolition contractors.

The biggest question is how much of the structure the town can safely demolish with the $500,000 grant.

“We have to develop a plan to make sure the building is demolished in a way that in the end, the structure is still safe,” Tyndall said.

He said that it’s more than likely that the town will demolish the back part of the building and keep the front part, which included offices and a cafeteria.

“It will take a little bit to have a clear plan to move forward. By ‘little bit,’ I don’t mean weeks. We are talking days,” Tyndall said.

During the Aug. 28 council meeting, there was talk of reaching out to the Department of Housing and Urban Development to get an extension for the grant, which expires June 2024.

“We are going to try to move as quickly as we can to operate within the [grant] timeframe,” he said.

At this point, the council is moving forward without a development plan for the Heron Park property.

During the Aug. 28 mayor and council work session, developer Jack Burbage presented his own plan for the Heron Park property in its entirety.

“I think the whole park should be planned out before we do anything,” Burbage said.

The council was still in an extended negotiating period with Coastal Ventures at the time Burbage presented his plan.

“I did have a phone call with Mr. Burbage and the town administrator was with me,” Tyndall said.

During the call, Tyndall said he told Burbage that the town was in an extended negotiating period with Gillis and he would not be negotiating with anyone else during that time.

Tyndall said that during the phone call, Burbage said he was not interested in acquiring the Heron Park property, but if he was, this is what he would propose.

Tyndall t0ld Burbage during the call that he was free to share his plan during the public comment period at the next meeting, which he did.

At the meeting, Burbage suggested turning the Tyson’s building into an office and commercial warehouse, with catering and mini-storage. He also suggested a pool, a village green, train depot, and a day care center.

Much of the development included 59 residential units including single-family homes and townhouses. The concept of housing was originally rejected by the town and stated in the draft contract between the town and Coastal Ventures, but during further public discussions and debate, both the council and residents seemed to warm to the idea of some sort of housing, more in line with apartments above businesses than single-family or townhomes.

“I would like to see what they want and am willing to offer a formal proposal,” Burbage said.

Burbage said his focus is to not compete with the downtown businesses and to provide affordable workforce housing for teachers, police and other workers.

“People could buy it for the same price they are paying in rent,” Burbage said.

Burbage thinks that the town can sell parcels 410 and 57 and 191 and make enough to be debt free while still having enough land to build a small amphitheater, skate park and keep the green space for a park.

Burbage thought the Coastal Ventures plan offered by Palmer Gillis was a good plan.

“If they want to sell it to Palmer, that is wonderful,” Burbage said.

Gillis originally proposed to develop parcels 57, 410 and 191, but as negotiations and town officials cooled on the idea of selling the three parcels, Gillis agreed to develop just parcel 57, the Tysons Poultry Plant.

The original draft contract limited the development of parcel 57 to restaurants, boutiques, gift shops and retail with parcel 410 and 191 limited to commercial and a retail garden center for 10 years.

As residents and council members raised concerns about competition with Berlin shops and restaurants, Gillis suggested office and warehouse space with commercial catering as an option. These updated options were reflected in Burbage’s drawings.

Coastal Ventures requested that $200,000 from the sale price be restricted for the town to accelerate a Rails to Trails bikeway that would extend from the north side of Old Ocean City Blvd back to the entertainment venture and passive park area and to spark fundraising efforts for a town-owned entertainment venue.

Over the past few months, with numerous opportunities for public comment, the town and the council members continued to change their opinions on what type of development should occur on parcel 57.

Concerns were raised that any development should not compete with the current businesses in downtown Berlin and for the town to come up with a strategy to get out from under the debt incurred when it bought the 68-acre tract in 2015. Currently, the town owes $2.3 million on the property.