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


Commissioners sign off on Berlin annexation plan

(Feb. 26, 2015) Forgoing, for now, a commercial component that would have been constructed on the north side of Route 50 and Seahawk Lane and instead focusing on the 90-plus acres on the south side, the Worcester County Commissioners last Thursday approved the Town of Berlin’s annexation plan that will bring about the eventual construction of some 750 townhomes on the edge of town.
There were two problems with the proposed annexation: a zoning change from agricultural to residential, and complaints of the Berlin Fire Company.
Dated the day of the make-up meeting of the county commissioners because of the snow and not included in the commissioners’ packets, the fire company’s letter criticizes town officials for not meeting with the fire company before seeking the county’s approval.
“We have been aware via the public media, monitoring of meeting minutes, and review of Mr. [Ed] Tudor’s memorandum and materials to the commissioner’s for today’s meeting,” fire company President David Fitzgerald said in the letter.
The letter also revisited some of the fire company’s old grievances with the town, including a cut in funding, delaying the construction of a proposed fire station adjacent to the annexed land and failing to replace an old aerial truck.
The letter went on to ask that the commissioners postpone their consideration of the annexation until after the town meets with the fire company.
Asked by Commissioner Chip Bertino if the fire company’s concerns had been addressed, the attorney representing the project, Mark Cropper, said, “There has been no meeting. It’s not normal until after this step.”
The commissioners subsequently moved on from the request for a postponement to the zoning issue.
The parcel is zoned A-1 agricultural, a designation that allows only minor subdivisions, according to Tudor, while annexation would require a zoning change to R-4, which permits higher densities of development.
Tudor also said the property is listed as being within the “Commercial Center Land Use Category” on the county’s land us map, which allows a variety of uses, just not many of them consistent with the intent of R-4 residential.
But when it came time for formal discussion, the traffic study ruled the day. The plan was originally for 900 units, Cropper said, but that has been revised down to 788. The traffic study was based on 900 units, thus providing some breathing room, Cropper said.
Commissioner Ted Elder questioned the study’s methodology, figuring a 500-vehicle peak load for the original 900 units seemed low. Tudor said he was not a traffic engineer and couldn’t challenge the methodology of the study. Elder thought than triple the proposed traffic load would be more accurate.
“The traffic study considered many more units. We’ve met the county standard, which is better than what the state requires,” Cropper said.
Tudor presented the commissioners with three options. First they could agree with the town’s request and rezone the property. Second, the could agree with amendments, or third, they could kill the project outright by rejecting the town’s logic and barring development in this for another five years.
On a motion from Commissioner Bud Church, the commissioners adopted the first option unanimously.