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to operate a gun sales business out of his home is now over as the county application for a zoning variance was withdrawn last week.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 The home owner followed all the proper procedures in asking for the variance and although the county application was withdrawn, Ocean Pines Architectural Committee (ARC) had already granted the request.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.
Berlin makes right call on project’s annexation
Posted On: 3/26/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
OP avoids potholes, uses art of compromise to pass FY16 budget
Posted On: 3/19/15
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...» Click here for the full story.
Waiting for movement in town vs. fire company
Posted On: 3/12/15
Maybe what the Town of Berlin and the Berlin Fire Company need to do is hire a mediator to sort out the conflict between the two. The issue, after all, has gone beyond who is right and who is wrong and has become a matter of how to repair the relationship for the benefit of the public. As it stands, both the town and the company have their supporters and detractors, while the rest of the public is left to decide which side is more believable than the other, based on their respective versions of the facts. Revisiting the history behind this parting of the ways, however, is not going to happen in this space because nothing good would come of a regurgitation of all the circumstances and allegations that led to this rift. Secondarily, there isn’t enough room to accommodate it all. The question that must be dealt with now is not what happened, but how the public is being affected by this standoff. The company, of course, would argue that public safety either has or will be comprom...» Click here for the full story.
Board and Thompson butting heads, harder
Posted On: 3/5/15
If the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors were to say to General Manager Bob Thompson, “We’ve got to hand it to you,” the majority might be thinking about his walking papers. That’s certainly how it appears, given the obvious friction between Thompson and some of the directors, a circumstance highlighted during Saturday’s meeting, when Thompson publicly challenged the golf course management selection process. In his defense, he did ask questions that deserve to be answered for the benefit of residents, who, no doubt, are wondering how the deal went down when the majority dumped Billy Casper Golf in favor of Nebraska-based Landscapes Unlimited. By itself, that question would not have been an issue had not the majority strongly indicated going into the process that they were predisposed against Casper. Nevertheless, Thompson shouldn’t have attempted to grill board members in open session, even though he is clearly frustrated by its attempts...» Click here for the full story.
Time will tell on OP golf
Posted On: 2/26/15
The Ocean Pines Board announced this week that there will indeed be a change of management at the golf course this year, with Landscapes Unlimited taking over from Billy Casper Golf. There will certainly be a lot of debate on whether the timing is right to make a change, as Billy Casper Golf supporters have felt they had not been given ample opportunity to turn things around. Those who favored a change, however, have felt, even taking into consideration the earlier poor conditions of the course and later down-time on half the course under repair, improvement to the bottom line just simply had not come quick enough. There is no question that the golf course has been a financial drain. A large drop in membership combined with costly drainage and course repairs has had many in Ocean Pines questioning the long-term viability of course and its real value to property owners. It’s difficult for anyone to really know whether, if under different management, the course would hav...» Click here for the full story.
Public input could be key to harmony in Pines
Posted On: 2/19/15
As Ocean Pines looks to the future and, hopefully, tries to determine how much and on what they will need additional member funding for, board members should follow the recent example of the Town of Berlin. Given the opportunity to make a landmark purchase of the old Tysons chicken plant and faced with a decision on how to best proceed with town needs and resident wants, the mayor and council decided to hire a facilitator and set up community meetings. Providing residents, shop owners and others who are stakeholders in the town’s future an opportunity to be heard and help prioritize where town monies should be focused was a smart idea. As is the case in all communities, there are always varied opinions and only so many resources to cover everything put forth. Berlin has learned that being inclusive allows all members of the public to feel they are partners of the result, whether their individual ideas make the cut or not. One of the obstacles continually faced by Ocean Pines...» Click here for the full story.