It’s understandable Town of Berlin officials are irritated about the lack of communication from the county regarding the development of a sports complex just outside town limits. The county’s response has been it wanted to wait until the public hearing was passed and the bond resolution approved before diving into details with the town as well as state transportation officials. The town would like to meet with the county about the project.
The comments from town officials this week were equally understandable as predictable. Council members Dean Burrell and Shaneka Nichols – who represent the districts closest to the proposed site – led the charge of opposition at the public meeting. Burrell said, “The property may be located in the county but we all know that is the town of Berlin. I am so disappointed that a project of this nature would be planned, and the Town of Berlin not be informed nor consulted.” Nichols was also blunt with her assessment, saying, “when you say it’s great for the community, what community is it great for? Because it’s not great for my community. … Never once were the residents of Briddletown notified or asked what their thoughts were on this monstrosity. That’s what I’m calling it, because that thing right there will not service those kids that live on Flower Street. That thing will not service the children that live in Berlin unless you are part of an elite team.”
As he did at the public hearing, Berlin Planning Director Dave Engelhart said at this point he foresees nothing but “negative impacts on the horizon and someone else benefitting” by the project’s development at the current site. He said, “Water and sewer is our leverage to make sure that we don’t get all the negative impact from this project—which is a wonderful project I don’t dispute it—but none of the positive impact.” Engelhart said he reached out to the county on the town’s behalf to start a dialogue.
There is a chance the county would not need town services if the complex was solely outdoor fiends. However, if Ocean City funds a major indoor facility on the site as a few elected officials are saying will happen, the site will need a connection to the town. Discussions should have been held once the current site was identified as the front runner. This will be a major project for the county if it proceeds through the 180-day evaluation period.
Though the county can say it did not want to waste anyone’s time with meetings and planning before the bond resolution was approved, it’s unfair to those most affected – the citizens of Berlin — to be in the dark. It’s unprofessional and confirms the hasty nature of the process.