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


Berlin Dollar General battle ongoing; next stop cir. court

(April 23, 2015) Despite a series of setbacks, developer Oxford Chase and property owner Mike Hamad are still hopeful a deal can be reached to move the existing Dollar General store in Berlin to a new location on Old Ocean City Boulevard near Healthway Drive.
The town’s board of zoning appeals granted a parking exception in September, but the project hit a potentially fatal snag in March, when the Berlin planning commission rejected the plan because of objections from neighboring businesses concerning possible traffic issues.
One of the issues is whether Hamad’s property or the adjoining 14.5-acre parcel registered to Baltimore resident Stanley J. Smuck, has the right of way.
Hamad told the Gazette in March that the issue dates back several years, when his attorney sent a letter to Smuck asking for clarity on the easements and right of way coming out of the property.
“His attorney sent us a nasty letter back saying, ‘I don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to do nothing and if you do something we’re going to sue you,’” Hamad said at the time.
Now the developer, who is represented by attorney Randy Coates, is taking the matter to the Worcester County Circuit Court.
“We’re going to see what happens at the court, and then the developer is going to proceed on the right-of-way thing, because really the surveyors and everybody say there is no right of way,” Hamad said. “The right of way was only there when the whole property was one farm.
“They never used that right of way for the last 40 years,” Hamad continued. “What happened was that property was subdivided. Decatur Apartments bought one part, the Smucks bought 14 acres, [another party] bought a parcel. Really that doesn’t exist. I think they’re just playing politics.”
Mark Cropper, who represents the Smuck family, said at this point he was “merely observing, monitoring and reporting” to his client the efforts of Oxford Chase through the litigation process.
“The planning commission denied the site plan on numerous issues, the very least of which had anything to do with these easements, because the planning commission found that it did not have the authority to decide who was right and who was wrong with regards to the existence of this right of way,” Cropper said. “Irrespective of what Randy Coates is trying to achieve, that will not resolve the dispute of what this easement does or does not do.”
“The Smucks only concern is that they have access to 346. They have never been against developing the property or the Dollar General,” Cropper added.
Coates was not available to comment on the story.
Hamad, meanwhile, said the other party “doesn’t have a leg to stand on.”
“They’re trying to work something with us, but we’re not going to work nothing with them,” he said. “[The right of way] doesn’t exist. The surveyor said it doesn’t exist the developer had a surveyor that said it doesn’t exist, our attorney said it doesn’t exist.”
During the planning commission meeting, the panel voted down the proposal following objections from neighbors, including Atlantic General Hospital, that the Dollar General would increase traffic in the area.
Again, Hamad cried foul.
“The town has got to understand that there is a comprehensive plan for development over there,” Hamad said. “Traffic is going to be there no matter what. They should have known that that exists.”
Hamad sold the property contingent on the Dollar General getting final approval from the town. He recently gave the developer an extension until June 1 to get a deal done.
If the court rules in favor of the developer, the matter would go to the Berlin Board of Appeals. Either way, Hamad vowed to get full value on his property
“If the Smucks want to buy me out, that’s fine. If the town wants to buy me out, that’s fine. If they deny me my property, they’re condemning my property,” he said. “We’re going to wait and see what the court does, but if they do deny them then that’s when I’m going to have to sue somebody, and it has to be the town of Berlin for condemning my property.”