Support For Berlin Vision
(The following letter was addressed to the Berlin Historic District Commission with a copy forwarded for publication.)
I wanted to write an email in support of the vision for 19 Gay Street that is here before us now and another project forthcoming with the triangle property directly across the way.
We should consider ourselves lucky to have a hometown visionary like Mr. Selway. It was obvious at the Historic District Commission meeting last night that he has thought out every single detail of this building. Not only how to make it fit in the space he owns, but according to our code, and beautiful at the same time. He has gone out of his way to keep the aesthetics of Berlin in mind, while in the same vein using architecture as art.
We should be so lucky to have him, and for him to serve as a guide along with other young local professionals imagining the next century Berlin architecture. As a town, we do not have smart growth without a good partnership from the HDC with sensible developers.
I am a Berlin preservationist at heart and believe we should remain what we are structurally and architecturally, as long as humanly possible. This design he presented not only fits the space but stands to be a model of how we can grow that area of our business/historic district. This balance will not only help keep the feeling of a cool small, historic, and quirky town but also grow internally with aesthetically pleasing designs. This particular design not only gives homage to the classic “Berlin” style, but it incorporates materials that speak the same language as existing buildings.
The numbers prove it, and we know that mixed-use spaces in existing areas that do not need to be annexed are the highest level of new tax revenue for any size town. This project is art + design + living space + commercial space + a seed for more like-projects to find their way into great spaces in Berlin. Infill development is what this is called, and that’s always a win for any small town. We should not feign this, this is exactly the type of development we should embrace.
Please do look backward for guidance, and by the same token please do look forward with professionals whose ideas play well within the proverbial box you are tasked to keep them in. Mr. Selway went out of his way to accommodate our wants and needs from a code, and HDC level, therefore we should show him the same deference, and let this project through without nit-picking his idea to pointlessness. He is an artist, and I do not imagine anyone would tell an artist how to paint his painting. Mr. Selway has presented us with an amazing portrait of what could be in that space, and I wholeheartedly support his vision. I look forward to what other things in the vicinity that he inspires.
In closing, I hope that you find it with-
in yourselves to see this project through to completion. I hope that you do not deter Mr. Selway into leaving that existing structure there, waiting a few more years, while we all get to watch it wallow in yet another hot summer of “nothin’ doin’.”
Petition Is A Legal Document
Some of the members of the Ocean City Council appear to be playing a game of “Double Jeopardy.” In their haste to give away right-of-way (ROW) land along Baltimore Avenue, some members are ignoring a valid Petition to Referendum that would have allowed the voters the opportunity to vote for their approval or disapproval of Ordinance 2022-23. That ordinance called for the free conveyance of 6,000 square feet of ROW between 13th and 14th streets.
Instead of allowing the voters to decide on the matter, a majority on the council voted to repeal Ordinance 2022-23, by way of a simple voice vote. As far back as 1987, all previous repeals of ordinances successfully petitioned to referendum have been formally repealed by ordinance. Why is this different?
For the record, the City Council has every right to repeal an ordinance which has been successfully petitioned as in this case. However, what is unprecedented is the fact that instead of allowing the voters to have their voices heard at the ballot, the majority appears to be set on preparing an ordinance to convey the entire ROW along Baltimore Avenue from N. Division Street to 15th Street, without ever allowing the voters their input on the matter on the latest Petition to Referendum. In other words, if the voters do not like the Council’s first decision, they will circumvent the will of the people and do it another way.
This is not the purpose of a Petition to Referendum. A Petition to Referendum provides the opportunity for voters to review a legislative action of their elected officials, and if those voters disagree with that action then petition to have the matter placed on the ballot for voter approval or disapproval. As stated earlier, the City Council can certainly repeal the ordinance, particularly if they revisit the issue and agree that perhaps the matter was adopted in haste, or without weighing all considerations. However, upon repeal the matter as presented should end the issue. Petitions to Referendum cannot be simply ignored, and subsequent ordinance(s) re-packaged in an attempt to circumvent the will of the people.
To quote the late Honorable Walter Maloney, a former Administrative Law Judge from Prince George’s County, “A Petition to Referendum is a legal document, it should be treated as such.” The citizens of the Town of Ocean City deserve better.
Vincent dePaul Gisriel, Jr.