Annexation Eyed For Welcome Center, Gas Station

BERLIN – A Berlin resident wants to the town to annex 18 acres at its Route 346 entrance so he can build a gas station and welcome center.

Ernest Gerardi, a Berlin resident known for the array of historic homes and buildings he’s remodeled in town, wants to give what he considers one of the town’s main entrances a facelift. On Wednesday, he told the Berlin Planning Commission about his plan to erect a gas station in the place of the old produce stand at the intersection of Route 346 and Route 50. He wants to include a Berlin welcome center in the project.

“What I want to get is people stopping on their way to Ocean City,” Gerardi said.

Gerardi said he had been interested in the 18-acre property, which extends from the produce stand to the electric substation, for several years. Although the shape of the property is complicated and building will be limited by the proximity of electric wires, Gerardi has moved forward with purchasing it. He’d like to see the agricultural property rezoned commercial. Because the last gas station on that side of the highway for those traveling to Ocean City around the Salisbury bypass is in Cambridge, Gerardi believes there is a need. He hopes to incorporate a Berlin welcome center into the facility. Eventually, he’d also like to build a small retail strip and possibly a hotel there.

Joe Moore, Gerardi’s attorney, said a gas station incorporated with a Berlin information center would be a good way for the town to catch the attention of tourists heading to Ocean City.

Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, said the property was contiguous with the town and was adjacent to the Maryland State Police barracks that was set to be hooked up to town water and sewer in the near future.

Commission member Pete Cosby said the property was a good spot for commercial development.

“This is a perfect commercial intersection,” he said. “It’s going to happen sooner or later. The sooner it happens the more business we get downtown.”

He asked whether Gerardi would make the inclusion of a town welcome center a permanent part of the facility. Gerardi assured him he would.

The commission voted 5-0 to get the annexation process started by sending notice to the county and state that a petition to amend the town’s comprehensive plan by adding to a growth area had been received.