Berlin’s Failure To Plan
My father often told me: failing to plan is planning to fail.
Berlin’s recent budget predicament — I loathe to call it a crisis because that word implies something unexpected and dire — seems not only predictable but the predictable result of both a failure to plan and a failure to stick to a plan. Getting us out of this mess, and moving Berlin towards a healthy future, will require planning. So far, I haven’t seen any such plan coming out of City Hall, our Town Council or our Mayor.
Urban planning is an art and a science and in recent years the Town of Berlin has planned poorly. The purchase of Berlin Falls Park — a potential future boon to this town — along with the ill-conceived development and annexation of Oceans East, the recent approvals of annexation requests for parcels along the Route 50 corridor — the Gerardi property and the Athena property — as well as the resulting overbuilt water treatment plant, are clear demonstrators of Berlin’s lack of planning or even adherence to an existing plan. Rather than follow our own strategies, Berlin reacts on a case-by-case basis without regard to the current state of the town and its finances and without regard to current or future growth.
Berlin’s response to annexation criticism usually falls along this line: “If we don’t make it part of Berlin then we have no say over what happens there.”
That argument is flawed on several levels. Berlin town limits don’t have to expand in order for the town to have input over development of property contiguous to our corporate limits. The implication that we have no sway over county policies, that the county board will discount the sovereignty of the Town of Berlin in favor of private development, is ridiculous. Restrictions are placed on businesses all the time through the use of zoning restrictions, water regulations, building codes, and, most importantly, strategic, long term planning.
We as a community get to decide if we want more gas stations along Route 50. We choose if we want the welcome sign for Berlin from the west to be a Wawa with a wall of pamphlets. Do we want another car dealership? A McDonald’s? Chain hotels? More apartments? Do we want to develop a second business district away from Main Street?
We need more than a plan. We need leaders who are willing to follow a plan, who are not influenced by the belief that a particular developer is a “good man,” or by flashy demonstrations and promises of tax “revenue” without consideration of future monetary and non-monetary costs. A well-planned community is not one that relies on “nice” developers who will “do the right thing.” A well-planned community equally enforces rules and regulations for all businesses and developers, no matter the builder, no matter the business owner, no matter the land owner. This uniform and consistent application of codes and ordinances is lacking in Berlin.
All this is to say that Berlin, to get itself out of its current financial mess — and keep itself out — needs strategic financial and comprehensive plans for the future. Not just the for next ten years as required of a comprehensive plan, but the next five years, then fifteen years, then twenty years down the road, and beyond.
Berlin needs all of us — elected officials, committees, town employees, and administrators, along with residents, business owners, and community leaders — to work together to ensure that as a town, as a community, we are willing to make changes, to abide plans and goals, all towards ensuring Berlin’s long-term health, financial and otherwise.
Speeding Concerns Continue
(Editor’s Note: The following letter was sent to the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors with a copy forwarded to this publication.)
As I am sure you recall, I spoke at the March 9 OPA Board meeting concerning speeding on Footbridge Trail. Since then, I have spoken to many neighbors, who also say they have screamed at drivers to slow down and who are more and more upset about this long-term, ongoing problem. Many of them came to me after seeing the articles in the Bayside Gazette and Maryland Coast Dispatch, saying these speeders must be stopped. Apparently, it isn’t – and never has been – something only I have complained about, as Chief Massey told me.
Today, a neighbor who lives across the street sent me a text message saying there is a man in a white Hyundai who regularly drives up and down Footbridge at 40 mph and faster. He called the Ocean Pines Police and was asked if he got the license plate number. We also saw this driver, but he was moving way too fast to get the license plate number.
A few hours later, a black SUV went speeding past our houses at a speed far faster than 25 mph.
These are not infrequent or isolated cases. I have been asking for help for five years, but this speeding happens every day and it’s only getting worse.
I appreciate the digital speed sign that was placed on Footbridge for awhile, but it’s gone now. Really, speeders only slowed until they passed that sign. It didn’t stop the problem.
I have a petition in circulation to get the speed limit lowered and am also planning a public gathering. We will be asking you to lower the speed limit to 15 mph and to not allow Footbridge to be used for through traffic any longer. We would like speed bumps and additional signage.
I have involved Maryland Sen. Mary Beth Carozza, Delegates Carl Anderton and Wayne Hartman, the governor’s office and County Commissioner Chip Bertino in an effort to get this problem solved before somebody is killed and to return the quality of life we all deserve to this neighborhood. As it is, many of us can’t walk or bike on Footbridge any longer and have to drive to Ocean City or to area parks to exercise and walk our dogs. We shouldn’t have to leave our own homes. That is nonsense. Don’t we have a Constitutional right to peace in our homes and neighborhoods?
It would have been nice to have heard from members of the OPA Board after I spoke on March 9. Mr. Parks did reply to my emails but I have not heard from anybody else. Please contact me. It will make me feel that somebody cares and will do something about this.