To grow or not to grow: Berlin facing big decision
Posted On: 6/11/15
It’s far too early in the conversation about the possible development of the Bay Club outside Berlin for anyone to take a definitive position, other than to express a willingness to listen. The prospect of a project that would entail the construction of 300 or so luxury homes and, perhaps, the town’s annexation of that parcel, might sound like too much too soon for some people, because they imagine it happening all at once. That, of course, won’t happen. No builder puts up 300 homes at the same time, just as 300 buyers won’t show up overnight and then descend on the town en masse. Like everything else that has occurred in Berlin over the past decade, this would happen in steps. The greater issue in the discussions that will follow, however, is not necessarily whether the town should grow, but what could happen if it doesn’t. Although remaining the same might sound like a solid option, other Eastern Shore towns – and, no doubt, many communit...» Click here for the full story.
Sandpiper metaphor for larger things in Pines
Posted On: 6/4/15
The question of whether the Ocean Pines Association should attempt to re-open contract discussions with natural gas supplier Sandpiper Energy is easy to answer: The OPA has nothing to lose by trying. That is the direction the OPA’s board of directors appeared to be heading as of mid-week, with a closed meeting set for Wednesday to discuss the situation and what might be done about it. One area of disagreement – aside from the contract itself – that appeared to divide the board was who should approach Sandpiper, General Manager Bob Thompson or possibly a delegation of board members? Judging from the conversation at the board’s last public meeting, the concerns of some members was that Thompson might not understand the various nuances of the board’s position and might, however improbable it sounds, somehow get the OPA involved in a bad deal. Although the importance of a new and equitable gas supply contract is indisputable, equally significant is the boa...» Click here for the full story.
OP directors right to want ‘just the facts’ in decision
Posted On: 5/28/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Memorial becomes more than anyone could foresee
Posted On: 5/21/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Little spending to get stadium info worth it
Posted On: 5/7/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Police called to help elsewhere sad situation
Posted On: 4/30/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Money, emotion battle science in zoning dispute
Posted On: 4/23/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Questions remain on ARC
Posted On: 4/16/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Berlin in budget heaven, while others are in, well …
Posted On: 4/9/15
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 ...» Click here for the full story.
Search committee’s work sets Ocean Pines apart
Posted On: 4/2/15
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...» Click here for the full story.