Ocean City Today

County, towns comment on new state development plan

Municipal representatives and commissioners outline hopes for statewide effort
By Brian Gilliland | Dec 21, 2017

(Dec. 22, 2017) As they continue their statewide tour of “listening sessions,” Maryland Department of Planning officials attended the Worcester County Commissioners meeting this week and were joined by representatives from Ocean City, Berlin, Snow Hill and Pocomoke City.

The sessions are part of the initial outreach as the planning department begins to create a statewide development plan, part of which will include how the state department can help local departments.

Berlin Mayor Gee Williams spoke first, and said fighting stereotypes of lower shore residents at the state level should be the first thing that happens.

“The appearance that we live here because we’re not educated enough to live over the bridge” has to stop, Williams said. “We need to talk about it so we can overcome it.”

Williams added that the relations between lower shore communities and state government has never been better, but still have a long way to go.

“I don’t want to have a subservient relationship with the state,” he said. “The stereotyping needs to stop.”

A specific concern of Williams is information access, in that Berlin officials often can’t view data entered by the town into state systems.

“A designated individual should have access to the data we provide to the state. We need to know where we are in real time,” he said. “It’s not that it could be done, but that it should be done.”

Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan said the unique character and economy of Ocean City should be taken into account when plans are formulated at the state level.

“Ocean City is recognized as a rural area, but the reality of that is different,” he said. “Our development is based on one thing: tourism.”

The dual nature of the resort as one of the state’s largest cities during the summer and one of its smallest municipalities during the winter needs to be taken into account in statewide plans, Meehan said.

Right now, Meehan said, the resort is in a redevelopment phase, and the leadership is focused on maintaining its bones — the beach, the roads and other infrastructure.

“Other resorts grow old all at once,” he said. “We’re focused on meeting the demands of 2018 and beyond.”

The commissioners also offered their own observations.

“Gov. Larry Hogan has taken a new approach to how government should work,” Commissioner Bud Church said, and noted it was a positive sign he hoped would continue.

Commissioner Ted Elder reinforced the idea that Worcester is an unusual conglomeration of communities, and that all should be respected for their own strengths during the planning process.

Elder was joined by Commissioner Jim Bunting in the opinion that the state plan should be a guideline more than a rule, and that the best planning occurs locally.

“The plan isn’t a sheet that you pull over everything, but a quilt made up of individual parts,” Robert McCord, acting secretary of the Maryland Department of Planning, said.

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