Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – July 29, 2022

Thoughts From The Publisher’s Desk – July 29, 2022

During a recent discussion on residential vs. commercial growth in Ocean City, Planning Commissioner Palmer Gillis, a developer himself, shared some interesting insights. The city is weighing an amendment to the code restricting residential development in an attempt to preserve commercially-zoned properties. The concept being to avoid allowing Ocean City to transition into a community full of solely homes, townhomes and hotels with little retail uses. A case in point is the sale of the Sun & Surf movie theater property in north Ocean City to a developer, who is known for building townhouses and hotels. Word is plans for that property will be presented at City Hall in the coming months. No matter what the intentions, a significant change of use appears likely. It’s a certainty the movie theater will be razed in favor of new construction. It’s expected to be either townhouses or a hotel with potential other uses on the property.

On the needed residential vs. commercial balance, Gillis shared his perspective. “When you have an idea for a property, you spend money and you risk money. That’s part of being a developer. When we do projects that are entirely residential, we lose the opportunity to walk where we want and get what we need. The problem is on-street parking for the residents,” he said. “If the whole island is built out, and I don’t agree with that, we should be sending up the red flag and sounding the alarm to save commercial zoning. That’s our job. Mixed-use is a good thing. You can make a nice livable, walkable community by doing that. Look at Sunset Island. … Our job is to protect the taxpayers and the citizens. We are not up here to protect developers. I’m okay with sending this to the Mayor and Council, because it is ultimately their decision. … We don’t want the remainder of the island all residential. That’s the 3% that’s left. It doesn’t take a lot of creativity to plop down 100 townhouses on a parcel.”

Gillis’s opinion is especially interesting as he and the Town of Berlin are currently in discussion on the future of the Heron Park property. He has offered $1.5 million for portions of the property and to redevelop the site as a commercial project with different uses — restaurants, a garden center, offices, parking, general use fields and a dog-friendly park were included in the proposal. The commercial vision was chosen by the town as the preferred redevelopment option over a 78-home residential community from the developer of Sunset Park in Ocean City. Negotiations are reportedly continuing between Gillis and the town as a closed session meeting was held before this week’s town council to discuss the prospect of moving forward.

Berlin is not in a rush to fill its town administration position. This was made clear by Mayor Zack Tyndall back in April after Fleetwood retired because he was tired, but soon after accepted the same position to run Delmar government. Three months later, it appears Tyndall continues to prefer going slow with advertising for the position and updating the job description, resulting in many assumptions around town Acting Administrator Mary Bohlen – a 31-year veteran of the town – will eventually lose the interim title. The lack of urgency seems to confirm the job is Bohlen’s if she wants it.

Berlin resident Tony Weeg, who is challenging incumbent Dean Burrell for the District 4 council seat, asked for an update on the process at this week’s council meeting during citizen comments. A week after Fleetwood left town hall, Tyndall said, “no search is taking place at this time. The deputy town administrator is serving in her capacity as we work through the transition.” During this week’s meeting, at Weeg’s request for an update on the vacancy, Tyndall said, “We’re making progress. We’re working through that process internally. When we have either a job description to put forward or an individual to put forward we will do so. At this time, we’re working with our acting town administrator. That’s where we stand.”

Whether “progress” means toward a revised job description, advertising for the post or contracting with a search firm to handle the process is unclear, but the long delay in getting the process underway seems to indicate Tyndall is content working with Bohlen over the short term. It’s the long-term play many are interested in learning more about.

The name Joseph Carlini may or may not be a familiar one to all, but he was the former operator of the Fat Fish in West Ocean City. At one time, the restaurant was enjoying early success before it all unraveled quickly as the operator was proven to be shady. Carlini pleaded guilty in February 2016 in county court to acting as a contractor without a license through the company Apex Property Maintenance. He was fined and put on probation. About a year later, he was sentenced to four years in jail for stealing appliances from a home he was renting. It was not his first stint in prison as he had previously served some time for felony theft scheme for an investment scheme in Montgomery County.

Once a con artist always one evidently, as Carlini is now back in prison after an investigation by the Maryland Attorney General Office resulted in the 43-year-old now-Frederick County resident pleading guilty to swindling three women out of nearly $200,000. As part of his plea deal, he will be sentenced to 38 years in prison with all but 10 suspended and five years of probation following his release. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $191,300, which is about the amount he (under the name Joe Cantone) convinced his former love interests into investing in a fictitious marijuana growing operation.

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.