New Berlin Annexations Discussed; Commission Approves Restaurant’s Revised Site Plan

New Berlin Annexations Discussed; Commission Approves Restaurant’s Revised Site Plan
The former Taylor Bank building off Route 346 in Berlin will become a 75-seat barbecue restaurant owned by John Trader. A rendering of the new structure is pictured. Submitted Image

BERLIN –  Discussions are underway regarding potential annexations of property on Route 818 and Route 346.

Planning Director Dave Engelhart told members of the Berlin Planning Commission this week that they’d likely be considering two annexation requests next month. Property owners are interested in annexing the I.G. Burton Chevrolet property on Route 346 as well as several parcels on Route 818 across from Berlin Main Place.

“They’re just falling in at the same time,” Engelhart said. “I hate to do two in one night but that may be the way it’s going to go.”

Engelhart said town staff were currently reviewing the requests. He said the car dealership was seeking annexation in order to connect to town infrastructure.

“They’re in the county where they are but they really should have been in town all along,” Engelhart said.
“They want to get in town limits to get on our water and sewer. That’s the benefit to them.”

He said the owner of the Route 818 parcels was pursuing annexation “ostensibly for development.” He said the parcels proposed for annexation were just across the street from the entrance to Berlin Main Place. Currently there are houses and farmland on the property.

“That would have a hotel and a convenience store and two pad sites for probably restaurants,” Engelhart said.

He said that while the requests were still at the staff level the commission could be presented with them at the March 13 meeting. He told the commission they’d be presented with the relevant information and would then be tasked with providing the town council with recommendations regarding the annexations.

Commission member Pete Cosby said he was concerned about the lack of sidewalk along Route 818, particularly if there was to be more development on the road.

“If we’re going to be annexing and building there it’s time to get serious,” he said.

He said the road was narrow and was not safe for pedestrians or bicyclists.

“People race down that road,” Cosby said. “It’s just not safe.”

Engelhart said he would bring the issue up at a meeting with State Highway Administration officials next week.

“They may or may not be aware of this Route 818 potential development,” he said.

Commission member Phyllis Purnell, who visits Berlin Main Place several times a week, agreed that speeding was a problem on the road.

“It’s a mess,” she said.

Cosby said he’d hesitate to support more annexation along Route 818 unless improvements were made to the road.

“We don’t need another 589 failure…,” he said. “If we’re going to annex out there it’s time to fix that road.”

At Wednesday’s meeting the commission also agreed to revisions to the site plan for a restaurant proposed for the former Taylor Bank building at the end of Route 346. In November, John Trader — founder of Liquid Assets in Ocean City and Our Harvest in Fenwick — got approval to turn the structure into a 145-seat barbecue restaurant.

Attorney Joe Moore told the commission this week that in order to address stormwater management issues, Trader had scaled back the restaurant to 75 seats.

“The concept is the same,” Moore said. “The opening date, unfortunately, is being delayed because of the onset of the season before we’ll get all of our approvals and get ready to build. Mr. Trader, who many of you know, is a very careful and good purveyor of food and beverage and does not want to open in the middle of the season.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.