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


Proposed Microtel in Berlin draws opposition

Berlin planning commissioners told developers planning a Microtel Hotel on the east side of Route 113 on March 13 that they need to make architectural improvements to build it in town.


A rendering shows the proposed design of a Microtel Hotel developers hope to build on the east side of Route 113.
Submitted rendering

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

While some residents objected to the location, Berlin planning officials told developers of a proposed Microtel on the east side of Route 113 on March 13 that they need to make architectural improvements to build it in town.

The developers are planning  to build the four-story, 78-unit hotel near Franklin Avenue. Several residents, most who said they lived near the proposed location, testified that they didn’t want to see a hotel so close to a day care and a school in an already busy area. Commission members were quick to express their concerns regarding the appearance of the building.

“This doesn’t suit our identity, it doesn’t come close,” commission member Ron Cascio said. “It’s got to reflect the ambiance of the town.”

Heather Morrison, the chief operations director of Fisher Architecture, presented the commission with plans for the proposed Microtel on a 5-acre site near the former South Moon Under property. She said the property was zoned for commercial use and the proposed hotel met the town’s 45-foot height limit. 

Matt Stoehr, chair of the commission, pointed out this was the second hotel proposed in Berlin in the last few years and questioned the need. Developer Tom Zambetis said Microtel saw a need based on its occupancy rates in West Ocean City. He added that Route 113 was heavily traveled and the Atlantic Hotel in Berlin only had 16 rooms. 

Commission member Pete Cosby acknowledged the need for another hotel in Berlin but said Route 113 was a main corridor in Berlin.

“I’ve got a real problem with your architecture, with the look of the building,” he said. “I’d like to see something special.”

Cosby said he was aware the town didn’t have specific guidelines to offer developers but stressed this was an opportunity for architects to be creative.

“We’re asking you guys to step up,” he said. 

His peers offered similar comments.

“This looks like it could be anywhere in the country,” commission member Austin Purnell said.

Meeting attendees said their primary concern with the proposal was the location. Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said the proposed hotel was right around the corner from her house. 

“I just don’t think that location is a safe spot,” she said.

Gabe Purnell said sexual predators could be among the hotel’s guests. Councilman Dean Burrell said he doubted anyone would want the Microtel in their neighborhood and said it would impact quality of life for residents.

“I am of the opinion this building is not representative of the Town of Berlin or my neighborhood,” he said. “To have this building in my neighborhood I think is not a consideration to be made.”

Resident Chrissy Ehrhart, who operates a wellness business near the proposed location, expressed concern about the potential 28-day stays permitted at the hotel and the dangers of sex trafficking. She also expressed concern about drug use at the hotel and questioned how low its rates would be.

Project representatives said there were hotel training courses related to sex trafficking and room checks were done regularly to ensure no one was doing anything they shouldn’t be doing in the hotel. They added that it costs about $50 a night per room to operate a hotel and the facility certainly wouldn’t be setting rates so low they weren’t making money. 

In response to a concern from Ehrhart that the tall building would cast a shadow over her garden and nearby businesses, Zambetis said the building would be tucked up against the woods so it wouldn’t obstruct anything. He said the majority of the 5-acre site was woods. 

Resident Andy Grunden said he thinks there was a need for hotel in Berlin but didn’t think the proposed location was ideal. He pointed out it was across Route 113 from downtown Berlin, which is a draw for visitors.

“What you’re left with is a game of frogger for pedestrians,” he said. “I think the need is there but you’re in the wrong spot.”

Resident Tony Weeg said he didn’t want to see the neighborhood changed to the point it could “never come back from.”

 In response, Zambetis said Wyndham corporate was pushing the design.

“We’re under a lot of pressure to keep it this prototype…,” he said. “We’re not doing this because we want to do it.”

Resident Alphonso Holden said he thinks there are better locations in town for a hotel. 

When asked by Gabe Purnell about the price of the project, Zambetis said it was about $10 million. 

“Us folks on the east side, we’re a whole different animal. We’re working class people,” Purnell said. “You said that it would increase property values. We don’t necessarily want our property values. We want to survive. We don’t need it on the east side. We’re trying to do things now to protect that part of the community because of gentrification. Let’s go somewhere else.”

Resident Samantha Pielstick supports the hotel project. She said residents need a place for their visitors to stay and added that it would be able to serve families of those in the hospital or visiting the cancer center. 

Because the hearing was just a concept plan review, Stoehr suggested the developer come back with information to address the concerns shared by the public and a few options for designs more suited to Berlin. 

This story appears in the March 21, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.