County Planners Talk Development Impacts

SNOW HILL – Officials highlighted the impact of future development on local fire and EMS companies at a meeting last month.

At this month’s meeting of the Worcester County Planning Commission, commission member Mary Knight said she wanted to make sure fire companies, which provide emergency response for residents, were aware of upcoming large scale development projects.

“For planning, the fire departments need to know we’re going to have so many new people,” Knight said.

After a meeting in which a 34-lot addition to a manufactured home park in West Ocean City was approved and a 90-lot subdivision near Ocean Pines was considered, Knight said she was concerned about the impact they’d have on emergency services. She pointed out that in the West Ocean City project that was approved, the new homes would be occupied by people over 50 years old. She said things like the number of new residences and the potential demographics associated with them were items local fire companies needed to know.

“I’m looking for coordination,” she said.

Jerry Barbierri, chair of the commission, said the fire marshal reviewed all of the development plans before they got to the commission.

Knight said nevertheless, she wanted to make sure fire companies had the chance to weigh in as well. Other commission members agreed that more communication and coordination couldn’t hurt.

“It’s good to have that awareness,” commission member Marlene Ott said.

When contacted this week, Berlin Fire Company President David Fitzgerald confirmed that emergency response companies had to be made aware of potential changes to local population and demographics.

“The importance for fire, rescue, and emergency medical services to be aware of developments allows the fire, rescue, and emergency medical organizations the opportunity to provide an analysis of the impact the development would put on the services provided,” he said. “Both an operational and financial impact.”

He said the Worcester County Department of Development Review and Permitting regularly provided notices to local fire companies regarding zoning changes and large developments, and any other pertinent issues. Fitzgerald said that provided the fire companies the chance to comment as needed.

“The fire marshal’s office also notifies us if they are aware of construction that we may want to comment on,” he said.

He added that the Berlin Fire Company, which serves county homes as well as those within Berlin town limits, had included in its contract with the town the need for notification regarding upcoming development.

“It is in our current contracts with the Town of Berlin to be notified now prior to approvals as we had no notice or opportunity to provide an analysis in the past,” he 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.