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


Neighborhood character may soon be measured

BERLIN — The Mayor and Council this week finalized a resolution aimed at giving both developers and the Planning and Zoning commissions a little more leeway when it comes to deciding on whether or if to suspend height restrictions on new properties and additions.
Last month members of the planning and zoning board appealed to the Town to begin the process of rethinking Town standards in terms of neighborhoods rather than just generally. The Council agreed and began a two-step process.
The first aspect was to green light hiring a company to develop a “pattern book” that could divide Berlin into neighborhoods, thereby giving the Planning and Zoning Commissions a better understanding of the “character” of a neighborhood. 
The character of a neighborhood suggests the types of houses or kinds of architectural changes that might be acceptable in a given area. 
But development throughout the Town, which has occurred in a less directed manner, has come in stages making it difficult to discern which housing types and what kinds of changes would be acceptable. 
Ranch style homes are sometimes located next to Victorian-era ones, for example. By delineating the character of a particular neighborhood, the Town will be able to develop architectural guidelines that are neighborhood-specific rather than broader ones that cover the entire Town and require variances based on the character of the neighborhood.
While the pattern book is being compiled, the Town is considering a stop gap measure that will give the Planning and Zoning Boards a narrower way to decide upon the scope of the neighborhood.
As proposed, it would consider the different styles within 250 feet of a given property as part of the neighborhood. It was a number that didn’t sit well with Councilwoman Paula Lynch.
“We’ve changed the concept from ‘neighborhood’ to a very specific number of people,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s very much.”
She suggested that doubling the distance would give both the boards, as well as their petitioners, a better picture of the types of homes, generally, in the area.
After some discussion the rest of the Council agreed, changed the distance to 500 feet and heard the first reading of the ordinance. 
If passed, the ordinance would give the Town the power to allow construction of residences up to 35 feet high, should the petitioner be able to make a case for it.