Planned Mixed-Use Building Clears Berlin BZA Hurdle

BERLIN – Plans for a mixed-use building on Washington Street are expected to move forward following a hearing with the town’s board of appeals this week.

On Wednesday, Berlin’s board of zoning appeals approved a conditional use request that will allow for construction of a mixed-use building, featuring three apartments over controlled storage units, at 305 Washington St.

“The town’s growing,” said Duane Maddy, the property’s owner. “The town has the need for apartments. This was an opportunity. The demand is there and it’s a way I can take the property and improve it. I think it’s a good plan.”

Maddy’s attorney Mark Cropper told the board he was seeking the conditional use request in order to construct a building that would feature residential apartments over controlled storage space in the town’s M-1 light industrial district. Cropper said a similar use had been approved by the board for Austin Purnell in the same area in 2016.

Maddy, who owns Piney Island Construction, said his company would use one of the three storage units on the building’s first level and that he hoped to find tenants like furniture stores or moving companies to lease the other two.

“I’m looking for a particular customer,” he said.

Joe Moore, chairman of the board, asked how the town would ensure there were no industrial operations on the site. He said he didn’t doubt Maddy’s word but wanted the public to be aware of the method of regulation.

Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, said the building plans would be submitted to the fire marshal for review.

“They will specify that there’s no flammables, no processes to be done there, it’s simply dry storage,” Engelhart said. “That’s a classification for how he has to build the building too — the fire separations, the ceilings, the walls have to be done — there’s different classes of flammables. If he has none there’s a lesser bar to jump over for his fire separation.”

Board member Woody Bunting said that while Cropper referenced Purnell’s project, the two were different because Purnell had planned to live in his apartment. Bunting asked what the market would be for Maddy’s project.

“It’ll be whoever can afford $1,500 a month rent,” Maddy said.

He added the apartments would feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

“A family is more than welcome but most likely it’ll be two individuals, individuals that are splitting the rent,” he said.

Bunting asked how Maddy would buffer the project from the surrounding buildings.

“You’re not going to negatively impact them but they’re going to negatively impact you,” he said.

Maddy said he’d owned the land for years and had considered various other uses, including a 22,000-square-foot storage facility and even a shooting range.

“I’ve been waiting for the right thing,” he said. “I just didn’t want to go rebuild another building over there.”

He said the building, which will be sage green with white trim and a black roof, would be surrounded by fencing.

“I’m more concerned with the people who rent these nice apartments, what they’re going to have to live with,” Bunting said.

Maddy said the project he proposed was similar to one already in Berlin as well as one he’d just completed in Ocean Pines.

“I didn’t just haphazardly put the plan together…,” he said. “I’m going to be very discretionary on who goes in there.”

The board voted unanimously to approve the conditional use request.

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.