Berlin Annexation Plans Advance With Planning Commission Support

BERLIN – Plans for annexation of property near the intersection of Route 818 and Route 50 will move forward following planning commission approval this week.

On Wednesday the Berlin Planning Commission voted 6-0 to recommend annexation of slightly more than six acres of property near where Route 818 meets Route 50. The property, owned by Athena Properties Inc. (Spiro and Marianne Buas), is slated for commercial development.

“When Athena Properties does develop the property they’ll have to come back here for site plan review,” attorney Peter Buas said.

Buas told the commission that the property in question, which is located on the west side of Route 818, was contiguous with property that was already in the town and was already in one of the town’s designated growth areas.

“I would suggest this is backfilling what was already annexed,” Buas said.

He said sewer infrastructure was also already in place to serve the land.

Commission member Pete Cosby was quick to express concern regarding Route 818 itself and the impact further development would have.

“I don’t think 818 is adequate,” he said. “It’s another 589.”

He said it was a main access to the town and needed to be widened, particularly if it was going to experience more development. Town staff said last month that a hotel, convenience store and two restaurants had been suggested for the Buas property.

“This needs to be put in the works and pressure put on the state to get this right,” Cosby said.

When the commission asked for public comment, Berlin resident Carol Rose, chair of the town’s historic district commission, spoke in support of the annexation.

“I’m highly in favor of it,” she said.

Though not present, resident Jeff Smith expressed concern about the proposed annexation in a letter. He pointed out there were now two similar annexations being considered—this one and the one previously submitted by Ernest Gerardi—and that both would involve significant development on Route 50.

“Both need to be addressed together as part of a broader plan for the growth of Berlin,” he wrote.

He indicated development on Route 50 could siphon business away from Berlin’s downtown.

“We’re at a crossroads,” Smith wrote. “The question is how does Berlin want to proceed.”

Commission member Ron Cascio said he had concerns about the appearance of the conceptual development, which was provided to the commission at the start of the discussion.

“If this is ‘welcome to Berlin’ I don’t know that I want to be a part of this,” Cascio said.

Spiro Buas stressed that everything was conceptual at this point.

Cascio also said he was worried about the financial impact of residential annexation. While the Buas property is not planned residential, the property between it and downtown Berlin was.

“These are all growth pains that we’re dealing with,” Cascio said. “We have to be very careful about how and what we do.”

Cosby pointed out that the town had already annexed property farther away from the town limits than the Buas property.

The commission voted 6-0 to recommend annexation of the property to the town council.

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.