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


Planning commission needs rules to follow

No one can blame the neighboring property owners and residents for opposing the prospect of a Microtel motel on Route 113 near Franklin Avenue. They have legitimate reasons: the traffic, strangers in their midst, the fear of a changing neighborhood, and generations of resentment about being viewed as a repository for things not wanted elsewhere.

The Berlin Planning Commission, on the other hand, has no such justifications, but seems bent on exercising authority it doesn’t have in pursuit of a goal it can’t define.

It needs to stop,  at least until an updated comprehensive plan gives the commission something on which to hang its decision-making hat. Otherwise, it is making calls based on members’ personal preferences.

As was seen last week during the commission’s discussion of the possible Microtel project and throughout its consideration of a Wawa store on the other side of town, the commission has become more of an architectural review board than the zoning compliance authority it’s supposed to be.

Even though commission members have declared their desire for projects that reflect the spirit and style of the town, they can’t articulate what that is. Instead, when asked by developers to guide them in their re-design, the commission follows the famous line of the late Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who responded after being asked to define pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

That line of thinking in planning discussions isn’t fair to anyone, since the basis of zoning is what district goes where and what meets a district’s criteria and what doesn’t.

As it is, maybe the location of the proposed Microtel should no longer be zoned for business, maybe the town needs to re-think what it wants in terms of development, and maybe the commission should wait for that to happen instead of going off on its own.

And maybe, the town should impose a commercial building moratorium until its gets these things figured out and has a plan everyone can follow.