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Council authorizes letter to commissioners

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.