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


Berlin Housing Board back in business after decade

(Aug. 27, 2015) Berlin’s Housing Board of Review met for the first time in at least nine years last week, electing Tara Downes to the post of chairperson and briefing the members on a number of goals the town hopes to achieve.
Board members Lyn Kelly, Mary Moore and Leslie Gephardt were also present, as were Planning Director Dave Engelhart and Permit Coordinator Carolyn Duffy.
Only board member Jeff Rick, out of town for a family matter, was absent during the Aug. 19 meeting.
In an email to the board sent a week prior, Engelhart, the staff liaison, said he wanted to elect officers and review duties and responsibilities, including a addressing a number of delinquent properties in Berlin.
Engelhart said he believed the board would help, “decide the direction and outcome of the enforcement efforts necessary to bring them into compliance,” adding that Berlin’s recently completed strategic planning sessions included public support for “maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods and public health, safety and welfare, all of which are negatively impacted by substandard and poorly maintained properties.”
Englehart said during the meeting that the board could help the town enforce the property maintenance code
“You’ve got to have proper sanitation, proper ventilation, glass in the windows, screens in the windows, secure doors and so many square foot per person,” he said. “There’s four or five homes that I’m going to go after now.”
Engelhart reiterated that the recent strategic planning sessions produced something of a mandate for restarting the long-dormant board.
“That was a big one in each one of those,” he said. “Substandard housing – what are we doing about it?”
Unless Engelhart considers a property an emergency situation, he said, “I can’t do anything about it.”
“Right now, the way the code reads, if I write to a property owner and say, ‘I want you to meet me there and show me the condition inside, structurally, everything,’ that’s fine. I can go from there. If they deny it then I can come to you and you can direct me to proceed. That’s the most legal way,” he said, adding, “I’m after substandard properties … what I’m after initially are the ones that are falling down.”
Moore said her goal was to make Berlin’s standards match those found in Easton.
“[In Easton] nobody ever put a modern looking store in that charming town,” she said. “They wouldn’t let Wal-Mart in there forever, and people knew that. If you’re going to Talbot County, you’re going to Easton, these are very high standards. I would like to think people think that about Berlin like that as well.”
Several members of the board expressed their surprise at being called in for an actual meeting. Duffy has been a town employee for nine years, during which time she could not recall a single meeting of the board occurring.
“When I got the call one time, I was like, ‘what?’” Gephardt said. “I was so shocked.”
“When I called [Rick] that’s what he said, he said, ‘I was told they never meet.’” Engelhart said. “I said, ‘Well it hasn’t, but it’s gonna.’
“We want to be a little more proactive,” he continued. “That’s what came out of those strategic planning sessions we had back in the spring.”
Engelhart said the meetings did not necessarily have to be held monthly, although that may be the case during the first few months. He also said the next board packet would likely include several items regarding the possibility of taking action, and that the board would need to select a vice chairman and potentially seek an alternate.
The next meeting was tentatively set for Sept. 16.