New Regs Allow Berlin To Handle Stormwater Issues

BERLIN – With the passage Monday night of Berlin’s new regulations, control of stormwater handling now lies with the town and not Worcester County.

“We take care of the streets. We take care of the sidewalks. We take care of water and wastewater, and we take care of electricity. Why not stormwater? That’s where so many problems still arise and have a negative effect on our environment,” said Berlin Mayor Gee Williams.

Councilman Dean Burrell agreed that the town should control stormwater regulations. Folks in Berlin that have a stormwater problem come to the Berlin Mayor and Council, not Worcester County, asking for relief, Burrell said.

“As they should because they’re our citizens,” Burrell agreed.

The new regulations require environmental site design (ESD) methods on building sites to deal with run-off from rain and snowstorms. ESD methods use the land’s natural characteristics to handle excess water instead of relying on stormwater ponds and other structures.

The Berlin Mayor and Council passed the regulations unanimously. Councilman Troy Purnell recused himself from the stormwater discussion and vote.

After the town council held a public hearing in mid-April on the new stormwater rules, a few changes were made in the draft stormwater regulations in response.

Comments by Coastkeeper Kathy Phillips of Assateague Coastal Trust prompted the addition of definitions for impaired and receiving waters to the new law.

Another change to the draft regulations incorporated Phillip’s comment that the regulations need to make it clear that the town can step in and halt development plans if developers do not exhaust all ways of incorporating ESD in a project.

The regulations already allow projects to use structural, not ESD, methods if a developer can show that there is no way to use ESD methods on a building site.

With the additional language, the town can disapprove a project at the concept plan and site development plan stages if the plans do not exhaust all ways of using ESD methods.

“We made all the changes we could without holding up the process,” said Williams.

The regulations, under the new state law requiring the change, had to be passed Monday night, in order to meet the state of Maryland’s early May deadline.

The Berlin Planning and Zoning Department is already working on a flowchart showing developers all the requirements they must meet under the new stormwater regulations.

On Monday nights, Williams once again said the town would hold workshops on implementing the new stormwater regulations. The sessions will help elected officials, staff, and townsfolk iron out glitches and identify needed compromises, Williams said.

The work sessions will welcome public input on the questions facing town officials and staff.

“How do we make this work?” Williams said. “How do we meet the intent and spirit of the new law?”

While new projects will be easiest to deal with, retrofitting older areas will be challenging, said Williams.

The town needs to use the regulations and test them out before making changes.

“If we feel there are flaws, we’ll sit down and work those flaws out,” said Williams.

The town council also agreed Monday night that Berlin needs to engage a stormwater engineer to handle specific questions that will arise with the new regulations.