Berlin Planners OK Royal Farms Site As Growth Area

BERLIN — The Berlin Planning Commission has recommended that the site of a future Royal Farms in Berlin be added into the town’s growth area and that zoning on properties located at the intersection of Routes 818 and 50 have their zoning changed from industrial to commercial.

The installation of a Royal Farms gas station and store at the corner of Route 50 and Friendship Road has been on the town’s radar for months and representing attorney Joe Moore told the commission that everyone is eager to see the project advance.

“Royal Farms is anxious to get there, and we’re anxious to accommodate them, obviously, but we can’t do it until we move forward with the requirements,” Moore said.

The parcel in question, which currently hosts an Arby’s, is already zoned for commercial use and therefore a good addition to the town’s growth area as determined by the Comprehensive Plan. If it is added to the growth area, property owners Steve and Karen Black will be able to immediately petition for annexation into the town.

That annexation is vital as the property wants to be connected to town water and sewer. There’s no water or sewer service out that far at this point, but Moore told the commission that he has been working closely with the town and feels confident that a hookup can happen following a successful annexation.

Moore was quick to clarify that he was not trying to drag any of the surrounding parcels into the growth area along with the future Royal Farms site. He has written to the neighbors to gauge interest, though, and told the commission that he’d be willing to do the heavy lifting if any of the other nearby parcels wanted to tag along.

The commission agreed that the parcel would fit into the town’s growth area and gave the application a favorable recommendation to be reviewed by the Mayor and Council.

Following that approval, property owners Phillip and Marie Houck submitted an application to have their two parcels, totally 3.2 acres, re-zoned from M-1A Industrial to B-2 Shopping (Commercial). Those parcels are located at the northwest intersection of Route 818 and US Route 50.

“I would start with an argument that the property is mistakenly zoned,” said attorney Mark Cropper on behalf of the applicants.

The original industrial zoning came about because the parcels were set to be included in a Technology Park project in town that never happened.

“The Technology Park was actively pursued and it was believed at that time that it was going to actually occur,” he said.

That was more than a decade ago and Cropper pointed out that Berlin has found itself with an excess of industrial land in his opinion.

“I will submit that with no more demand in existence for industrial purposes in or around the town of Berlin, that amount of land acreage zoned industrial is simply not needed now because there is not that demand,” Cropper said.

There is, however, a demand for commercial space, Cropper argued, especially in the area of Routes 818 and 50. That neighborhood has seen significant growth and change and is ready for more, he continued, which is another reason to consider a zoning change.

That area is perfect for a commercial use, said Commissioner Barb Stack.

“I’ve always felt that these properties at the intersection are prime commercial properties so it makes perfect sense to me,” she said.

Commissioner Newt Chandler shared Cropper’s opinion that the industrial zoning attached to the parcels was a mistake. The commission voted unanimously to issue a favorable recommendation to the Mayor and Council for altering the zoning on the properties to fit with a commercial shopping district.