Public Hearing On Proposed Growth Area Expansion Oct. 9

Public Hearing On Proposed Growth Area Expansion Oct. 9
Eighteen acres near the intersection of Routes 50 and 346 west of Berlin town limits will be the subject of a public hearing with the Berlin Town Council next month. Photo by Charlene Sharpe

BERLIN – The public will have another opportunity to comment on the proposed expansion of a town growth area next month.

On Tuesday, Oct. 9, during its regular meeting the Berlin Town Council will hold a public hearing regarding a request to add 18 acres at the intersection of Route 346 and Route 50 to the town’s growth area. If the property is added to the growth area, it can eventually be annexed into Berlin.

“Part of the agenda will be a public hearing for the mayor and council to consider the recommendation of the Berlin Planning Commission to add two parcels, which are at the intersection of US Route 50 and Maryland Route 346, to Growth Area 3 contained in the comprehensive plan,” Planning Director Dave Engelhart told the council this week. “Statutes require whenever you alter the comprehensive plan you have to have a public hearing.”

In June, local resident Ernest Gerardi outlined plans to eventually develop 18 acres he owns at the intersection of Route 50 and Route 346 with a convenience store and potentially a hotel, car dealership and retail space. He said that before he developed the property, however, he wanted it annexed into Berlin. The first step in the annexation process is expansion of the town’s growth area to include the land.

Last month, the Berlin Planning Commission voted 5-1 to provide the growth area expansion request a favorable recommendation. The vote came after a lengthy public hearing that included comments from supporters of the project as well as from those opposed to it.

“We had a lot of public participation,” Engelhart said. “It was good to see … We had 18 people speak. There was quite a difference of opinion but the planning commission took that into consideration and none of it was unanimous but it was good to see that input from the public and planning commission.”

Engelhart said that if the council decided to accept the commission’s recommendation and add the land to the growth area, Gerardi would then request the property be annexed.

“His aim would be if it gets added to Growth Area 3 he would move on with an annexation request because they currently are in Worcester County, they’re not in the corporate limits of the town,” Engelhart said.

He added that the annexation process would also include a public hearing during which citizens could share their views. He said officials from Worcester County and the Maryland Department of Planning would also weigh in on any annexation proposal.

“I’m sure it’ll be quite the detailed vetting process…,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “It should make for an interesting fall.”

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.