Proposed Campground’s Traffic Impact On Berlin Weighed

Proposed Campground’s Traffic Impact On Berlin Weighed

BERLIN – The traffic that could be generated by potentially hundreds of travel trailers making their way through downtown Berlin is a cause for concern among residents following news that the Bay Club could soon be a campground.

On Monday, the Berlin Town Council was presented with the Carl M. Freeman Companies’ plans to turn the Bay Club, a golf course on Libertytown Road, into a 434-site campground. In spite of a presentation from attorney Hugh Cropper that highlighted the benefits of the project, citizens are concerned about the impact it could have on Berlin.

Donald Bounds was one of those in the audience Monday. He’s not convinced by Cropper’s assertion that a campground would generate less traffic than the existing golf course. He pointed out that anyone leaving the Bay Club who wanted to go to Assateague or Ocean City would drive through Berlin.

“I just don’t think the street system in Berlin can handle it,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a congested mess. With the walking traffic you have in Berlin, you don’t need travel trailers going through.”

Councilman Zack Tyndall expressed similar concerns.

“Mr. Cropper kept describing all of the traffic that currently exists when parents go to the golf course to pick up their children,” Tyndall said.  “I do not imagine those parents drive large RV’s to pick up their children. Mr. Cropper failed to address how campers, cycling through on a weekly basis during our prime tourism season, would impact our already congested small town.”

When asked how the town could protect itself from the potential traffic impact, Mayor Gee Williams pointed out that the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) would require a traffic study before the project was approved by Worcester County, as Route 376 was a state road.

“I believe the town and the developer should approach any potential traffic problems as partners to help ensure that both SHA and the Bay Club campsite development both understand the town’s concerns and addresses them in the traffic study and the resulting recommendations,” Williams said.

Resident Jack Orris, who ran unsuccessfully for council in October, said he thought Cropper’s presentation was informative but was still concerned about the effect the proposed campground could have on Berlin.

“I share the concerns addressed by Mayor Williams regarding the potential traffic problem areas, as well as potential future annexation into the town,” Orris said. “That being said, I’m hopeful Berlin will be kept informed throughout the whole process and see how all parties can work together.”

During Cropper’s presentation, Tyndall asked how the redevelopment of the Bay Club fit in with the greenbelt shown around Berlin in the town’s comprehensive plan. Cropper said the Bay Club was essentially out of the comprehensive plan.

“There is a draft of a green belt in your comprehensive plan,” Cropper said. “It hits the easterly portion of this property. Respectfully everything I’ve seen of that has draft stamped on it. It’s really not applicable.”

Tyndall said Wednesday he was not satisfied with the attorney’s response. He pointed out that the comprehensive plan stated that areas within the “Urban Growth Boundary” should be preserved in their current state when possible.

“The greenbelt areas are designed with the intention of preserving our forests and wildlife habitat,” Tyndall said. “I find it difficult to imagine that the proposed campground development Mr. Cropper discussed on Monday night would not have an impact on the forests and wildlife within that area.”

Tyndall said he had a number of concerns about the project and was not in favor of seeing it annexed into the town, something Cropper said his client was interested in pursuing if it was feasible.

“After hearing Mr. Cropper speak on the project, his explanation showed no long-term benefit to the citizens of our town by annexing the Bay Club property into the town limits,” Tyndall said.

He said the project went against the ideas put forth in the town’s comprehensive plan, a document that had been developed by the town’s residents, business owners and elected officials.

“Secondly, based on Mr. Cropper’s comments and description, the proposed campground is going to be an all-inclusive campground with its own amenities that can only be used by those who are staying on the property,” Tyndall said. “This takes away from all the great businesses in Berlin that have already made a capital investment into the town.”

He said he was also worried about the impact the campground would have on the town’s recently upgraded wastewater treatment plant if it was annexed into Berlin.

Williams said he thought the best way for the town to deal with the golf course’s potential redevelopment was to work with the property owner. He said respectful communication between the two parties would enable the town to fulfill its duties to its residents and the Bay Club to serve its patrons. Nevertheless, he stressed that town leaders would be involved in the process.

“I believe all parties understand the Town of Berlin is not expected, nor will accept, being a bystander to such a major change in land use with real impacts to our community from a major development project just outside our western municipal limits,” he said.

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.