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Town delays vote on rezoning for hospice care facilities

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BERLIN
– The Town Council held a public hearing on whether to change the definition of the R-1 residential zoning code to include nursing, hospice and other care facilities as Coastal Hospice looks to open a center off

Broad Street
near Purnell Crossing, but elected to put off the vote for the second time in as many meetings.

Troy Purnell, who testified before the council and recused himself as a councilman for the process, said the hope is to eventually extend the development through to

Old Ocean City Boulevard
.

The legislation was put off at the October meeting to limit the amounts and kinds of lights such a facility could have and minimize the intrusion on neighboring residences.

Alane Capen, president of Coastal Hospice, said they were working to create a hospice in
Berlin, starting with six beds and eventually expand to 12 and would include quarters for the staff that covers home hospice patients in the northern

Worcester
area.

“Unlike a hospital or Coastal Hospice by the
Lake, this would not be acute care,” she said. “The level of care they would require would be the same as we would provide for them in their own home.”

The new facility’s focus would look more like independent living than its more hospital-like

Salisbury
facility and include places for family to stay while they visit.

She said that

Worcester
County
was Coastal Hospice’s largest area of growth, given the percentage of retirees in the area.

Councilwoman Paula Lynch pointed out the requested change was closely tied to another resolution that had yet to have its first hearing and suggested tabling the measure so both could be voted on at once. Otherwise, she reasoned, the council would be committed to passing legislation regardless of the second public hearing’s outcome or be forced to live with only partial legislation.

The council delayed voting on an ordinance that would change the district regulations for the R-1 residential district so they could consider it in tandem with a potential change they are to consider at the next meeting. The other piece of legislation provides a clearer definition for what counts as a nursing or hospice facility.

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Fire sprinklers

The council also heard the first reading of a resolution exempting the town from requiring fire sprinkler systems in all new construction. Citing the fact that the town receives no tax-differential from the county as well as the “more than adequate” coverage provided by the Berlin Volunteer Fire Company, the town proposes to opt-out of the state building code modification.

The council passed a measure allowing it to act as a conduit through which $6 million in federal funding would be funneled to the state. Mayor Gee Williams said federal funding rules required the grant be directed through a town but the town has no option to spend it.

According to town administrator Tony Carson, the state chose

Berlin
because of its reputation for efficiency.

 

*The council granted permission to the Berlin Lions to hold the Berlin Christmas Parade, 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 2.

“It’s the highlight of Victorian Christmas,” Williams said. “And it just gets better and better every year.”