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


Planners face tough problem with growth

As the Town of Berlin begins to reassess the direction of its 10-year comprehensive plan, the question officials, their advisers and residents will have to answer is how large can a small town become before it turns into something else.

Exactly what that something else might be is subject to debate, since the definition of a small town is more a matter of opinion than it is a census exercise.

The U.S Census classifies a small town as a community with a population of less than 5,000, while other definitions put the dividing line at 2,500 residents or all the way up to 30,000 inhabitants.

It all depends on the perspective of the individual and that’s where the going gets tough for planners. They have to solve the knotty problem of how to balance the desire to keep things the way they are against the way things need to be to cover the growing cost of municipal services and supplies.

The latter can be accomplished in just one of two ways: raising taxes and fees as needed, possibly to the point of unaffordability for some residents, or spreading the burden by increasing the tax base and the number of taxpayers through growth.

That is one difficult line to draw because of residents’ competing interests and opinions. Further, it’s because of that divergence that the perfect plan doesn’t exist.

No matter what the town’s urban design consultants produce in the way of concepts and approaches, the best anyone can hope for is something at the crossroads of “disliked the least” and “the most tepidly endorsed.”

Change is inevitable, for better or worse. Controlling that change fairly to benefit the most people is the job the town is setting out to do.

That’s why keeping the public informed throughout this long process is so important. The more people understand about it, the more willing they might be to accept that balance and compromise are the key ingredients in moving forward.