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Berlin, MD 21811
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Editorial

Editorial - Articles


OP directors right to want ‘just the facts’ in decision

Posted On: 5/28/15
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No matter how simple it might seem for the Board of Directors to establish a policy regarding community groups’ use of Ocean Pines Association facilities, the reality is that deciding who pays what is an exercise fraught with danger. Okay, maybe not real danger, but it is still an uncomfortable and awkward business of deciding which group is entitled to what level of accommodation at, say, the Yacht Club or other venue. In a way, it is like ranking groups in order of importance and that almost always causes hurt feelings, considering that few members of any group are willing to concede that their outfit or their cause may be a little less significant than some other organization’s. Add to that the likelihood that most local nonprofits don’t have much money in the treasury and therefore appreciate price breaks whenever they’re available, it has to be tough to come up with a way to govern the use of community facilities that will seem fair to everyone. That...
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Memorial becomes more than anyone could foresee

Posted On: 5/21/15
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Ten years ago, it was a nice gesture and a source of pride. After all, proponents and boosters had worked hard, raised some money and saw to the installation of a nice park area near the South Gate in Ocean Pines.  Now, the Worcester County Veterans Memorial is something else entirely. Since that comparatively inauspicious beginning, the memorial has become a powerful centerpiece, a patriotic symbol that is highly valued by veterans and their families, and an educational element for school children throughout the county. When families and friends unite at the memorial on Monday, they will not only pay their respects to those who have fallen as well as to those who did their duty and returned, but also, in a way, to the group of volunteers who undertook the mission to honor all those who have served. As Sharyn O’Hare, a founding member of the Worcester County Memorial Foundation, observed this week, the site initially was little more than “a hole in ground,” wh...
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Little spending to get stadium info worth it

Posted On: 5/7/15
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There’s something about the public funding of arenas, stadiums and other significant venues that seems just plain wrong, considering that private enterprise is often among the principle beneficiaries of these facilities. It is, in some cases, no different than erecting a building for any commercial operation and justifying it by saying the business it generates will echo throughout the community. That said, there is nothing wrong with taking a look at an idea, which is what the Worcester County Commissioners voted to do this week with the sports complex proposed by Hat Trick Consultants of Texas. Theoretically, the complex would be home base for a minor league hockey team as well as some other small market sports franchise and would provide for a variety of indoor sports activities for area residents. Although the county commissioners have stated that they have no intention of going into the stadium business, which they couldn’t do anyway given the facilities’ est...
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Police called to help elsewhere sad situation

Posted On: 4/30/15
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It’s a sad state of affairs indeed when local law enforcement agencies are called on to help quell violence in any jurisdiction other than their own, and it’s even more unsettling when they are needed in a metropolitan area. This isn’t to suggest that our police aren’t capable of doing the job if called upon. Quite the contrary is true, since they would not have been contacted at all if the leadership of the Maryland Emergency Services Agency hadn’t thought they were qualified. It also didn’t hurt that the director of that agency is Clay Stamp, a local product who is well aware of the resources in the coastal communities, having proved himself some years ago as the resort’s emergency services director. In that sense, the level of trust in our police is a good thing, but it remains a terrible business that requires them to be needed elsewhere in the first place. Monday’s violence in Baltimore will spawn all sorts of explanations and an...
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Money, emotion battle science in zoning dispute

Posted On: 4/23/15
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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, bu...
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Questions remain on ARC

Posted On: 4/16/15
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The firestorm over an Ocean Pines resident’s application to operate a gun sales business out of his home is now over as the county application for a zoning variance was withdrawn last week. While guns in homes are an emotional trigger for some, the real issue here was whether county and OPA regulations for home-based businesses in this case would be met. The home owner followed all the proper procedures in asking for the variance and although the county application was withdrawn, Ocean Pines Architectural Committee (ARC) had already granted the request. The question still remains however if the ARC decision may have come despite guidelines which require items being sold be manufactured in the home, which does not apply in this case, and the reason the variance was requested.  Simply because the person requesting the variance followed all the rules does not require ARC to allow a variance. An additional consideration would be neighborhood traffic. While the resident...
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Berlin in budget heaven, while others are in, well …

Posted On: 4/9/15
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Oh, to live and budget in the Town of Berlin, which is one of the few places these days where government budgeting it not the jaw-clinching process it has become elsewhere. Locally, both Ocean City and Worcester County governments are staring at dreary revenue forecasts that don’t support all their financial commitments, much less all the things they need to do but have delayed until the good times roll again. The Ocean Pines Association, while in good shape financially, still struggled during its budget process to decide whether to ramp up its assessments or to eliminate certain allocations. And then there’s Berlin, which last year increased its spending 15 percent to improve the town and is aiming high again in its new budget as it considers buying the former Tysons property to convert into a public park. Wow. And to think that it wasn’t that many years ago that Berlin, unlike these other entities at the time, was wallowing in its own red ink with what appeared ...
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Search committee’s work sets Ocean Pines apart

Posted On: 4/2/15
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 Despite the occasional wisecracks and flip observations about Ocean Pines politics, the community does more than most jurisdictions in the region to involve its citizens in the political process. While it’s been observed frequently over the years that the members of various boards of directors haven’t gotten along that well with each other, the only real distinction between OPA board arguments and disagreements in other local governments is that OPA board members tend to air their differences publicly instead of behind closed doors. That is refreshing, but more important to the process of governance in Ocean Pines is how far the association goes to encourage people not just to become more involved, but also to seek membership on the board itself. That’s not just rare, it’s virtually unheard of for representatives of a governing body to solicit potential competitors for office. But that’s exactly what the OPA is doing as its candidate search commit...
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Berlin makes right call on project’s annexation

Posted On: 3/26/15
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To grow or not to grow, that is the question just about every prosperous community asks itself at one time or another, as residents and officials debate the question of how much success is too much. What makes that question so arguable, as the Berlin Town Council demonstrated Monday, is that there isn’t any clear answer. While it is true that a community can outgrow its charm and flavor, it is also impossible to maintain a set level of livability at a similarly fixed level of expense. Expenses always go up and, consequently, there are only two ways to cover the increases: raise taxes periodically to cover rising costs or keep the tax rate down by expanding the assessable base through growth. The problems are simple, but the answers aren’t, as other Eastern Shore towns discovered when their attempts to hold back the tide of growth resulted in the departure of long-time residents who were forced out by rising costs of living. That’s what it always comes down to: who...
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OP avoids potholes, uses art of compromise to pass FY16 budget

Posted On: 3/19/15
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And that, as they say, is that, which is this case with the Ocean Pines Association budget. After several weeks of quarreling over whether to increase or decrease assessments, which company should manage the golf course and whether General Manager Bob Thompson was out of line when he criticized the board for its golf course decision, it does appear that the dust has settled without anyone suffering permanent injury. That’s good, considering that the goal of everyone involved is to do what’s best for the community. How each member of this group goes about achieving this objective might differ, both practically and philosophically, but that’s where the art of compromise comes into play. The budget approved by the OPA board reflects that and while it does leave unanswered questions, there will be plenty of time between now and next year’s budget to address them. To be sure, the road to approval of this year’s financial package was full of potholes, but th...
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