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City Council discuss urban compact expansion


by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
October 08, 2020
BERLIN — On Sept. 28, the Berlin City Council held a work session remotely, as has been the case since the pandemic hit in March. The topic of the night was the possibility of the City taking over a portion of Route 110, that leads to the Jericho Park entrance.

Mayor Paul Grenier greeted and thanked New Hampshire Department of Transportation District 1 Engineer Phil Beaulieu for attending the meeting. Beaulieu said the conversation will be about what the DOT can do before the City taking on the extended urban compact line and the City Council will hold a separate discussion on the goals and objectives of extending the urban compact line.

Berlin City Manager James Wheeler explained that discussions surrounding this section of road have been happening for quite some time, years. A few years back, Grenier along with Commissioner Sheehan and former Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, discussed the take over and placing it on the ten year plan. Due to the limited amount of ongoing projects, Route 110, did not make the cut. Due to an interest from investors to develop the area, the topic has now reached the forefront once more.

Councilor Mike Eastman noted that this project is essential as Berlin's Jericho Park is a strong driver of the local economy. Eastman requested confirmation that the DOT would accept a proposal from the City to extend the urban compact, and that culverts would be repaired.

Extending the urban compact would create roughly two miles on Jericho Road more flexible. Another bonus for the extension would be to give the City more autonomy over the area. Noted was the fact that reclassifying a road is within the commissioner's authority.

Councilor Lucille Remillard asked if Berlin were to take over the section and allow the DOT up to five years to do the work, what are the chances of having it completed. The representative from the DOT said that they would find a way to get it done, barring some unforeseen circumstances.

Joe Kenney, who attended the meeting relayed that there is a law that clearly states the process for taking over a road and establishes timelines (RSA 229:5 IV).

He said, "It's important to extend the urban compact; however the bridge has to be brought up to specs as well. The OHRV community would hate to see the State change the law on Coos County's state roads."

Eastman said that he wanted to show the commitment that is on the Jericho Road strip and the return on investment. He relayed that he had contacted property owners and potential investment and found a high level of investment, roughly $5 million.

He said, "When the city controls the road, we will be responsible for plowing and sanding; however all properties will have direct ATV access to the park. If we have control, the permitting process will be easier."

Grenier said, "With a potential of $55 million in assessed value, there would be $2 million of taxes, but we need a series of work sessions to better understand and to develop a plan. I would want to know what the cost is to the Berlin taxpayer and wants to proceed with caution."

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