By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(Sept. 27, 2018) Plans to develop two parcels of land at the corner of U.S. Route 50 and Old Ocean City Boulevard will next move to the Berlin Town Council for an Oct. 9 public hearing, according to Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart.
The Berlin Planning Commission last month voted 5-1 to recommend the Town Council add the parcels to the town growth area.
Property owner Ernie Gerardi hopes to develop the land into a “Berlin Gateway” that could include a convenience store, restaurant, hotel, retail shopping spaces and a car dealership. Earlier attempts to include a 36-unit apartment building were abandoned.
Planning Commission member Pete Cosby was among those in favor, saying the project was a “no-brainer,” in part because it would empower the commission in the final site plan approval. Because the property is already in the county’s growth area, he argued failure to make it official could leave its developmental fate up to the county without input from Town of Berlin officials.
Ron Cascio voted against the proposal and another commission member, Barb Stack, abstained. Cosby, Chairman Chris Denny, John Barrett, Newt Chandler and Phyllis Purnell backed the recommended addition to the growth area.
Last month, Englehart said of the 18 people who spoke during the planning commission hearing, 12 favored and six opposed the project.
At the Town Council meeting Monday, Engelhart said the mayor and council would be next to weigh in on what is still a lengthy process.
He said if Gerardi did receive council approval, “his aim would be, if it gets added to growth area three, then he would move on with an annexation request. They currently are in Worcester County – they are not in the corporate limits of the town.”
Engelhart said an annexation request would likely start with a letter to the mayor and council and then be referred back to the planning commission.
“Once again, they would have a public hearing … to propose annexation into the town,” Engelhart said. “That request also goes to Maryland’s department of planning and to Worcester County’s planning department. They have a comment period, where they come back and tell us, basically, yes, you can annex it.”
A rezoning request would follow, likely from A-2 agricultural to B-2 business district, Engelhart said.
Berlin Mayor Gee Williams said the public needs to be aware of the hearing dates.
“I’m sure it will be quite a detailed vetting process and, certainly, we want the public to know that at the hearings, that’s their opportunity to let us know how they think,” Williams said. “It should make for an interesting fall.”
The public hearing is scheduled to be part of an Oct. 9 Town Council meeting at Town Hall on 10 William Street, set to start at 7 p.m. The meeting was moved from Oct. 8 because of the Columbus Day holiday.