One of Berlin’s problems — and it doesn’t have that many — is its own success. While most other small towns on the Eastern Shore continue to suffer from an economic malaise that began decades ago, Berlin’s economy has surged in the past 20 years.
An empty space in the business district isn’t empty for long, and no town on the peninsula has received as much positive recognition as this town has, with a dozen major endorsements of one kind or the other bestowed upon it in the past several years, and real estate values that have gone beyond what the average Berliner could have paid 20 years ago.
That’s the downside of the town’s increasing desirability: it’s become more expensive.
According to City-Data.com, which compiles information and statistics from a host of sources, the median home value was slightly more than $237,000 in 2016 as compared to $97,600 in 2000. Median household income rose more than $20,000 to just shy of $54,000 from $33,400 in the same period.
By contrast, the median 2016 home value in Chestertown, which has the Chester River and Washington College in Kent County, was $225,200, having risen from $127,900 19 years earlier. And median income in 2016 — $13,700 less than Berlin’s at $40,200.
This doesn’t change the fact that Berlin’s elected officials erred when they failed to address the need for tax increases and higher fees years ago. They should have seen it coming, but as public officeholders are wont to do, they probably put it off because they knew they would have been roundly criticized for it anyway, regardless of the percentages.
It could be argued that the town’s need for more revenue wouldn’t be as great if Berlin’s revitalization and subsequent surge in popularity had never occurred. Then again, given the option, most people would prefer to deal with today’s problems of success than they would the difficulties of years past.