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


Money, emotion battle science in zoning dispute

Zoning fights such as the one taking place in Berlin between the developers of a would-be Dollar General on Old Ocean City Boulevard and the town’s Planning Commission, almost always end badly for one party or the other.
Although that would seem to be stating the obvious, the issue in such cases is not just winning or losing, but how much the parties involved invest of themselves and their resources before victory or defeat is declared.
That’s what determines the severity of the loss or the quality of the win in zoning battles, emotion and money and the amount of either that are committed to the fight.
Complicating the situation is that zoning is more of a science than it is an art, because the state laws that empower local zoning boards don’t allow for as much interpretation as some people would think.
Proponents and opponents of a potential development can argue all they want about subjective matters such as appropriateness, appearances, preferences and such, but it remains that either an application meets zoning requirements or it doesn’t. There’s not much room for an in between.
Without getting into whether this particular project should be permitted, or even on whether it’s the best thing that could happen to that property for the town as a whole, if this thing does end up before a judge, the planning commission will need to provide provable reasons that would be applicable to any commercial project of similar scope on that parcel.
We’re not necessarily rooting for anyone in this dispute, but this does seem to be one of those situations where both money and emotion are going to be invested before it’s all over.