Berlin Planners Postpone Dollar General Vote; Neighboring Properties Raise Public Safety Concerns

BERLIN – Citing public safety concerns, the Berlin Planning Commission voted Wednesday to postpone consideration of plans for a new Dollar General.

After a brief executive session to discuss legal matters on Wednesday, members of the planning commission told representatives from Oxford Chase Development that their site plan for a Dollar General at the intersection of Route 113 and Route 346 would be considered at the commission’s March 11 meeting.

“It’s a public safety issue,” said Chris Denny, chairman of the commission. “We need to postpone the meeting.”

Denny said the commission had learned of concerns about the project from two neighboring property owners. One of them, Atlantic General Hospital, even expressed interest in conducting its own traffic study of the area.

Commission member Pete Cosby said the board had a 45-day period to review submitted site plans, which meant the Dollar General project could be considered at the March 11 meeting.

“Two requests have been made by two very much affected property owners, and I think it’s in the best interest of everybody to continue this,” he said. “Hopefully, you guys can have some conversations with the stakeholders and get this going in the right direction.”

John Camp, vice president of Oxford Chase Development, said planning commission members had been aware of the project since September. He pointed out that last month the commission had given it preliminary site plan approval.

“We’re now at the midnight hour and we’re hearing objections,” he said.

Commission members stressed the importance of considering safety issues that arose regarding potential development.

“Until final site plan approval, every issue is on the table,” Cosby said.

Camp’s attempts to further discussion ended when commission members voted unanimously to reschedule consideration of the plans. When contacted Thursday, Camp said that in spite of the fact that Berlin’s comprehensive plan called for development along Route 346, his company hadn’t even been given the opportunity to make a presentation at Wednesday’s meeting.

“We don’t understand how they expect a company to come and do business in Berlin when we were treated the way we were,” he said.

He said Oxford Chase Development had already had a traffic study of the area conducted and that commission members could have shared their concerns sooner.

“Why at the last minute are we being deferred?” he said.

Camp said his company would present the Dollar General plans at the March 11 meeting but declined to comment on what an unfavorable decision then would mean for the project.

Patricia Dufendach, a member of Berlin’s pedestrian safety committee and one of several citizens in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting, said the intersection was a busy one for cars and people.

“I just want to make sure pedestrian safety is addressed,” she said.

She pointed out that the west side of the intersection, where entrances to several different businesses are jumbled together within feet of the stoplight, was already a traffic mess and said she hoped the same wouldn’t happen on the other side.