Resident Appeals Berlin BZA Decision

BERLIN – The decision by the Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals to allow a local bed and breakfast to host tented events is now the subject of an administrative appeal.

Resident Joe Hill is seeking a judicial review of the Berlin Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) decision to allow The Inn Berlin, a bed and breakfast on Harrison Avenue, to host outdoor tented events. A hearing for the matter has been set for October.

“All I can say is that if you lived in a quiet residential neighborhood and suddenly your next-door neighbor was allowed to have up to 20 large, tented events in their yard each year, you’d probably appeal the BZA decision allowing for that commercial activity to occur,” said Steve Rakow, Hill’s attorney.

In April, the BZA voted 3-1 to approve The Inn Berlin’s request to host outdoor tented events at the bed and breakfast. While the property already had a conditional use approval to have up to 30 people dine at the inn, the new approval lets the inn host up to 20 outdoor events a year for up to 60 people.

Hill, whose home is adjacent to the bed and breakfast, was one of the residents who expressed concerns with the inn’s plans during that meeting. He’s worried about the noise and lights potentially associated with the inn’s events, and outdoor dining areas, in such close proximity to his home. Following the board’s decision to allow outdoor events, he launched a Go Fund Me page to help raise the legal fees needed for the appeal. At the same time, he’s been talking with the town’s elected officials about the importance of keeping businesses from impacting residential areas.

“What I’m hoping to accomplish is to change the laws to protect residents in R (residential) zones and keep businesses in B (business) zones,” he said.

While he wants to fight the BZA decision that will affect him personally, he also wants to see changes town-wide to ensure that businesses aren’t permitted in districts meant to be residential.

“Ask any person, would they want the same result in their backyard?” he said.

The connections of The Inn Berlin, however, don’t believe their bed and breakfast will create any problems in the neighborhood.

“We wanted to prove that with our actions and we haven’t even had the opportunity to hold an event yet,” said Marco Tomasello.

He and his wife Maya live at and operate The Inn Berlin. They said they addressed questions and concerns from neighbors at the BZA meeting.

“We’re sad that this matter is being brought to the court,” Maya Tomasello said. “It’s a lot of negative energy. We have to pay for this as well, to fight it.”

She’s confident the BZA’s decision will be upheld but acknowledged until the hearing is held, it will be harder to schedule things like weddings.

“It makes people not as comfortable to book events,” she 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.