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Council authorizes letter to commissioners

10/31/13 | By Sheila R. Cherry, Associate Editor

BERLIN— The Berlin Town Council authorized Mayor Gee Williams to send a letter to the Worcester County Commissioners supporting a proposal by Rinnier Development to develop an agricultural lot across from Stephen Decatur High School and Stephen Decatur Middle School, during its Oct. 28 public meeting.

Rinnier, a Salisbury-based commercial real estate company, acquired two parcels on June 28 that total 120 acres. One parcel (Parcel 91), is in the A-1 Agricultural District, but has a “commercial” land use designation on the Worcester County Comprehensive Land Use Map, according to the letter. The second parcel (Parcel 518), is in the C-2 General Commercial District, it said.

The company also has a contract to purchase a third parcel (Parcel 411) that was previously the location of Harley-Davidson of Ocean City, the letter said.

“The proposal is to annex all of the properties acquired by the LLC into the Town of Berlin. Parcels 411 and 518 would be rezoned as B-3 General Business District and Parcel 91 would be rezoned R-4 Residence District (PUD), this is to be a mixed use development with any commercial uses nearest Route 50 on Parcels 411 and 518 and the residential uses (apartments) to be located on Parcel 91,” the letter said.

In August, Williams said plans are underway to develop the land into a mixed used property that could include an anchor retail chain store and a 900-unit workforce housing complex.

Williams and the council asked Worcester County Commissioners President James “Bud” Church “to consent to the annexation and rezoning classification so that the company could proceed with the necessary process as expeditiously as possible.”

Williams added, “Otherwise, the project could be delayed for as much as five years.”

Also at the meeting, Amy Jacobs, watershed restoration director for The Nature Conservancy, made a presentation on the organization’s Pocomoke Floodplain Restoration project. She invited the mayor and council on a field trip on Nov. 1 to visit sites that would be included in the project.

The project would involve breaching some artificial levees to allow storm water to pass into selected floodplains along the Pocomoke River. Allowing the overflows could benefit rare species in the local watersheds and help purify the area’s waterways by filtering out nitrates, phosphorous and sediment, she said.

Ultimately the organization’s representatives believe the process could help prevent stormwater flooding downstream as the floodplains retain more water, she said.

Jacobs said The Nature Conservancy was working on the project with local farmers, who she said were supportive. The timeline for the project is up to two years because of time needed to process easement requests, she said.

Economic Development Director Michael Day told the council the agendas for this year’s holiday celebration will follow the formats established in past years. The annual Tree Lighting and Arts Night are scheduled for Nov. 29, from 5:30-9 p.m. and the New Year’s Eve Ball Drop is scheduled for Dec. 31 from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m., he said.

The New Year’s Eve event has been one of the most popular town events that does not create parking problem, because most attendees simply walk to the Main Street celebration he said. While street closures would begin at 6 p.m. and reopen at 1 a.m., the actual event would be from 10 p.m. to 12:30 a.m.

The council approved a request from Water Resources Director Jane Kreiter to extend a contract with engineering firm URS to Dec. 31. The firm is conducting a construction project at the Five Mile Branch Spray Irrigation Systems.

Pete Livolsi of Si’ Culi’s requested and received the council’s approval to place an additional four tables and two chairs along the sidewalk in front of the restaurant. The council approved outside dining in July.

The approval passed by a vote of three to one, with Councilmember Dean Burrell voting “no.” The council amended it so no alcohol could be served at the outdoor tables except during town-approved events, at the request of Councilmember Paula Lynch.

The council preliminarily reviewed a re-proposal for a withdrawn ordinance to update regulations that guide the use of the town’s parks. Once a few typos are corrected, the council will hold a public hearing on the proposal, Ordinance 2013-06, on Nov. 25.

Williams read for the record Proclamation 2013-20, which designated November  Municipal Government Works Month in conjunction with the Maryland Municipal League. Williams said that the 156 municipal governments in Maryland like Berlin, represent “the most responsive level of government, allowing citizens to have direct access to elected officials.”

Deputy Administrator Mary Bohlen reminded the council that the first meeting in November was scheduled for Nov. 12, to accommodate the Veteran’s Day holiday.

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