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


Tyson plant passes environmental test, moves to feasibility

(Aug. 13, 2015) For more than a year Berlin and its citizens have dreamed of turning the former Tyson’s Chicken plant on Old Ocean City Boulevard into something of a town centerpiece as a multi-use, indoor/outdoor recreation hub.
Those plans continued to move forward this week, as the Berlin council voted unanimously to pay planning and design firm EDSA $34,500 for a feasibility study on Monday.
The Town Council approved a contract of sale on the facility with Berlin Properties North LLC on Dec. 22 of last year for $2.75 million. The contract included a six-month study period.
After passing appraisal and environmental studies earlier this year, the feasibility report is the last hurdle before the town moves to finalize the purchase.
In a letter to Town Administrator Laura Allen dated Aug. 7, Jim Hulbert from EA Engineering, Science, and Technology Inc. said the firm investigated the property for environmental activities since the 1990s.
Hulbert said the last regulatory actions on the property were done in 2005, when the facility entered into the Maryland Department of the Environment’s Voluntary Cleanup Program and received a “No further Action Required” determination.
EA performed soil and groundwater tests in order to “revise the use designation to include Recreational Use,” and determined that “identifiable environmental risks associated with site soils do not represent a significant barrier to the types of recreational use currently being considered,” citing hiking, biking, bird watching and a skate park.
“It is anticipated that the impacts that are present can be managed in place or through integrating into the site development features such as capping beneath hardscape surfaces,” Hulbert said.
One portion of the property that remained a concern was the lagoon.
“In the event that recreation use is introduced to the lagoon water area, that area would require additional action and monitoring to ensure levels of identified pathogens remain below the MDE Recreational Use criteria,” Hulbert said.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said the report was what the town needed to proceed.
“It was very positive and probably well beyond any of our expectations,” he said.
According to Williams, EDSA has worked for clients ranging from the Walt Disney Company to nearby municipalities, including Towson and Rockville.
He said the feasibility study would likely be completed within six weeks.
“I’m not an expert, but I would say there probably [were] more ideas than what 60 acres can do,” Williams said. “There are so many possibilities … the next step after the feasibility study will be the actual process of the town going to the bond market.
“Like anything in life you can have what you want – you just can’t have it all at once,” Williams added. “There are many great ideas, and I think we’re making the right decision in bringing some really top-notch experts to help us decide [what] the best options and multiple uses for this property for the benefit of our residents and our guests.”
At-Large Councilmember Thom Gulyas praised the latest Tyson action, while District 2 Councilmember Lisa Hall underscored the importance of the environmental study.
“That was probably the most critical part of the decision-making process,” Williams said, adding that a “show and tell” update on the property would likely occur in the fall.