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Berlin Planning Commission still not satisfied with Microtel design

Developers of a Microtel hotel planned for a 5-acre lot on Route 113 in Berlin are expected to work with members of the Berlin Planning Commission to come up with a building that fits the town.


A rendering that was presented last week to the Berlin Planning Commission shows the new design proposed for a Microtel on the east side of Route 113.
Submitted Rendering

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

Developers of a Microtel proposed on Route 113 in Berlin are expected to work with members of the Berlin Planning Commission to come up with a building that fits the town.

After a modified concept plan failed to impress the Berlin Planning Commission last week, the group that wants to build a Microtel on a 5-acre lot near the intersection of Franklin Avenue and Route 113 offered to set up a meeting between some representatives of the commission and the head of design for Wyndham. Commission members Ron Cascio, Pete Cosby and Erich Pfeffer agreed to consult with the designer regarding ways to improve the design of the building.

“Corporations just have to start understanding … we’re trying to preserve something here. And keep it special. Because it is special,” commission member Pete Cosby said.

After initially meeting with the planning commission in March, Tom Zambetis returned last week to share updated plans for the Microtel he hopes to build on Route 113. He said he’d tried to address the array of concerns shared by both members of the public and members of the commission the last time the concept plan was presented. He said that the hotel would not increase residential property values, which was a worry voiced in March, and that the hotel’s pool would be completely enclosed and only accessible from within the hotel, so it wouldn’t be a hazard for school or daycare children in the area. He added that the premises would be monitored around the clock through security cameras.

“The chances are slim to none that anyone would be putting themselves at risk,” Zambetis said.

He said he’d reached out to local law enforcement and told them the hotel would give them access to its parking lot as well as its coffee and bathroom facilities. In addition to the training Wyndham provides its employees regarding drugs and sex trafficking, Zambetis said the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office had offered to provide hotel staff with additional training as well.

Zambetis said he’d consulted with the Maryland State Highway Administration and officials there were looking at whether the Route 113 and Franklin Avenue intersection should have a traffic signal.

“It would make it easier for us but also the neighbors behind us and the school,” he said.

Zambetis told the commission the hotel would employ 14 people and that more than 12 subcontractors would be hired during the nine-to-10-month construction process. As for the architectural changes the commission recommended in March to make the project fit better in Berlin, Zambetis said brick had been added to the entrance.

“It’s simple, it’s clean,” he said. “It’s nothing major but it adds contrast and the splash of Berlin I think you all are looking for.”

Commission member Ron Cascio said he had a hard time seeing any splash of Berlin. 

“It’s frustrating,” Zambetis responded. “We have no direction. We have nothing from you giving us specifics.”

When Cosby said he liked the look of the Wyndham in West Ocean City, project representative Ernie Selici that was an old layout the hotel no longer did. 

“None of the branded hotels have that type of roofline anymore,” Selici said. “None of their prototypes have it.”

Cosby referenced the Atlantic Hotel’s brick fenestration and interesting details.

“But that’s a boutique hotel,” Selici said.

“But it’s Berlin,” Cosby responded. 

Cascio said he understood that Zambetis was limited in what he could propose for the elevation of the building because it was a national brand. 

“This obviously doesn’t fit the town but that’s what you’re left with. It’s not our job to design it,” he said, adding that Microtel’s architect was in Texas.

Commission member Newt Chandler said the proposed hotel was definitely a box but pointed out that the commission had approved similar buildings. Commission member Erich Pfeffer said it didn’t necessarily need to look like downtown Berlin.

“In regard to the fact that we don’t have architectural standards obviously makes things more difficult but I don’t think this does enough to say ‘We’re Wyndham/Microtel and we did something different in this town of Berlin.’ I know it’s tough that that’s the only guidance I can give. As an architect myself I’d think that’d be the only guidance I’d want, and not to have too much prescriptive guidance because that would really pigeonhole you.”

Selici said he’d worked with other hotel chains and felt Wyndham was the one most likely to be amendable to making changes at the town’s request. He offered to set up a meeting between some commission members and the company’s head of design.

“We want to be in Berlin,” he said. “It’s the right spot to be.”

Cascio indicated it was a good idea.

“That makes sense,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s happy with this.”

Pfeffer, Cascio and Cosby agreed to meet with the designer if Selici set something up. 

Resident Marie Velong said that if the hotel wanted to be in Berlin the company should do what Berlin wanted in terms of architecture.

“I don’t understand why we’re even talking about it because a lot of citizens don’t want it,” she said. “To me it’s in your best interest to come up with something that’s amenable to everyone here or forget it. I don’t have any sympathy for you. This Is our town and this is what we want. If you can’t do it, go someplace else.”

Resident Bronwyn Betz said she didn’t see the need for the hotel because the town had a small hotel and some bed and breakfasts as well as nearby hotels in West Ocean City. She said she’d rather see more small businesses than a hotel that served people who didn’t live here. 

“To me that looks like an eyesore,” she said. “I don’t see how it benefits us as town residents.”

Resident Gabe Purnell also voiced opposition to the hotel. He said in March more than half the people in attendance at the meeting voiced opposition to the hotel. He said if the commission was only looking at the design of the proposed structure it didn’t make sense for residents to object.

“You’re going to do what you’re going to do,” he said. “To me that don’t sound like a democracy.”

This story appears in the May 23, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.