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


DG heading to zoning appeals board

(April 30, 2015) The clash over a potential Dollar General store on Old Ocean City Road near Healthway Drive in Berlin is headed back to the town’s board of zoning appeals after a Worcester County Circuit Court judge decided on behalf of the developer last Thursday.
According to court documents, Attorney B. Randall Coates, representing Oxford Chase Development Inc., argued that the site plan rejection by Berlin’s planning commission in March was without merit, and that the town’s board of appeals should hear the matter.
Oxford Chase on Dec. 12 formally requested a building permit from the town for the construction of retail store in a commercial zone.
The Berlin planning commission on March 11 unanimously recommended that Planning Director Dave Engelhart deny the zoning certificate because of traffic problems its members argued would be caused by granting the property access to Route 346.
Engelhart did just that, citing a town code section involving highway corridor guidelines in a letter to the developer.
According to Engelhart, the planning commission, “specifically cited pedestrian and vehicular safety issues, traffic congestion, and access concerns for other properties in the surrounding area along Maryland Route 346.”
“It is my decision to concur with this recommendation and deny the issuance of a zoning certificate for this proposed use as currently presented in your application,” Engelhart wrote.
On the same day that Engelhart issued his denial, however, Coates called on the Board of Zoning Appeals to hear the case. “The denial is an erroneous decision or determination made by an administrative official,” Coates wrote.
Town Attorney David Gaskill, however, countered in a letter to Coates that the appeals board would not be the proper venue and based his argument on Coates’ reference to Englehart as an “administrative official.”
Coates, meanwhile, cited a portion of town code that specifically refers to the planning director as an administrative official.  The section reads, “It shall be the duty of the planning director to serve as secretary and administrative officer for the board of appeals.”
Circuit Court Judge Thomas C. Groton III apparently sided with Coates and ended the debate over semantics last Thursday by ordering that the case go before the zoning appeals board.
The hearing is expected to take place in May.