Berlin Planners OK Developer’s Requested Code Change In 4-2 Vote

Berlin Planners OK Developer’s Requested Code Change In 4-2 Vote

BERLIN – Members of the town’s planning commission this week gave their approval to a text amendment needed to move the Seahawk Road apartment project forward.

The Berlin Planning Commission voted 4-2 to pass the text amendment, which would permit apartment buildings larger than those currently allowed, on to the town council with a favorable recommendation.

“I think where the project is located it’s appropriate,” said Chris Denny, chairman of the planning commission.

The Seahawk Road apartment complex, proposed by Blair Rinnier of Rinnier Development, was given site plan approval by the Berlin Planning Commission last month. Because the site plan includes several buildings larger than the 12-unit structures currently allowed by town code, the project’s approval was contingent on the passage of a text amendment that would allow for bigger buildings in certain cases.

Mark Cropper, Rinnier’s attorney, drafted an amendment to the code that would give the planning commission the power to permit buildings with more than 12 units in cases where doing so would improve the project. The text amendment states that when “public necessity, convenience, general welfare and good zoning practice” will be better served by buildings with more than 12 units, the planning commission “may allow a multi-family building to consist of any number of dwelling units as determined on a case by case basis.”

Cropper said the change would preserve the 12-unit limit but at the same time would give the planning commission the authority to allow otherwise when appropriate.

“It’s not intending to change the code so anybody and everybody can build more than 12 units,” he said.

He added that the language used in the text amendment was the same language used elsewhere in Berlin’s code.

Commission member Ron Cascio said he was concerned about the fact that the text amendment allowed for “any number” of units.

“Things can get out of scale pretty quick,” he said, adding that the text amendment would open the door for other changes in the future.

Commission member Barb Stack agreed.

“The concept of a text amendment is trivializing what’s being done,” she said. “We’re basically changing the zoning code.”

She said the code was intended to keep Berlin looking like Berlin and not Ocean City or Salisbury.

“I’m not a fan of this project,” she said. “I think it’s too large of a project for the town. It’s so not Berlin.”

Commission member Newt Chandler said he didn’t think there was that much of a size difference between 12-unit buildings and the 24- and 36-unit buildings proposed for the Seahawk Road site.

“I don’t see it being that big of a difference in scale,” he said.

Stack and Cascio were the only commission members to vote against giving the text amendment a favorable recommendation. It will now move on to the town council for approval.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.