BERLIN – The Berlin Town Council voted 3-1 to approve an annexation agreement with I.G. Burton.
“What has happened here is this is another case where the property owners, who are immediately contiguous to our town services, have asked if they can be annexed into the town and hook onto those services,” Mayor Gee Williams said. “They’d be paying for those services plus paying property tax and all other related fees.”
The connections of I.G. Burton have been working toward annexation of the property since early 2019. In July, the town’s planning commission gave the proposed annexation a favorable recommendation. Sandy McAllister, the dealership’s attorney, said the only issue in the process had been ownership of Barrett Road, which is completely within the property. County officials said they didn’t want the road and town officials said they didn’t want it either. As a result, I.G. Burton will take responsibility for the road.
While the I.G. Burton Jeep property has always been in town limits, the I.G. Burton Chevrolet property has always been in the county.
“Just so people know, many many years ago the town took a strategy that not every town takes in that we don’t have forced annexations …,” Williams said. “We had the high school and middle school needed sewer and water. We agreed to annex those properties but not the ones in between.”
New construction, however, was required to be on property within town limits. Williams stressed that Berlin didn’t force people to annex.
“In some communities when you annex a property down the road then you force the people in between to come in,” he said. “That’s just not our philosophy. I think what’s happening gradually and steadily is as people age and business sells, most often one of the first things they do is seek annexation because it makes sense for everybody.”
Tyndall asked why the I.G. Burton property wouldn’t be switched to Berlin Electric once it was annexed. Williams explained that in spite of the efforts of John Howard Burbage, a past mayor, the Maryland Public Service Commission wouldn’t allow it.
“Their rule is you’ll die and go to hell first before they allow any municipality to have any more coverage area than you have,” Williams said, adding that his own home, though in town limits, was served by Delmarva Power and not the town’s electric company.
He said the town’s electric service area didn’t match its boundaries.
“There are places outside town limits that are served by town electricity,” he said. “There are places like most of the road where myself and the people on Old Ocean City Boulevard, we’re in town limits but we can’t get town electricity. It’s an anachronism that I don’t expect to see fixed in the foreseeable future.”
The council voted 3-1, with Councilman Dean Burrell absent and Tyndall opposed, to approve the annexation agreement. When asked Tuesday why he opposed the annexation, Tyndall said he was worried the town was approaching the point where it would need to upgrade its wastewater treatment facility.
“This potential cost to the town comes at the time where our residents are already dealing with the financial burden of a 20% property tax increase, a 5% increase in water rates and a 25% increase in sewer rates,” he said. “Additionally, there has been a discussion about a property tax increase for the next fiscal year and an increase in stormwater fees. My vote against this annexation had to do with what I think is best for the financial future of the Town of Berlin and its residents. It is my job to continue to stand up for the people I represent and make sure that Berlin remains a great place to live, work, and visit.”