BERLIN – Town officials approved the annexation of six acres near the intersection of Route 50 and Route 818 this week.
On Tuesday, the Berlin Town Council voted 4-1, with Councilman Zack Tyndall opposed, to approve an annexation agreement with Athena Properties. The approval is expected to allow plans for a 7-Eleven gas station and convenience store to move forward.
“It’s a 7-Eleven but it’s a new concept,” attorney Regan Smith said. “it’s not one you’ve seen. It’s going to be a Sheetz/Wawa type building.”
Smith, representing Athena Properties’ Spiro Buas, presented the council with a request to annex roughly six acres into Berlin. He explained that while the Athena Properties’ land immediately at the intersection of Route 50 and Route 818 was already in town, the adjoining six acres the company owned was not.
“This is a little unusual because part of it’s already in town,” Smith said.
He said Buas wanted to put a “Wawa-type” facility on the section of the property closest to Route 50. The Buas family owns the Crush and Crab building, the Food Lion shopping center and several houses in Berlin in addition to the property proposed for annexation.
“They’re very familiar with the town, very committed to the town,” Smith said.
He said the proposed annexation had received a favorable recommendation from the Berlin Planning Commission and added that the property was already surrounded by land zoned B-2.
Buas said the property would bring the town more than $20,000 in tax revenue if it were annexed and developed with a convenience store with gas station.
Councilman Zack Tyndall asked why the proposed agreement stated that the town would be responsible for paying Delmarva Power a fee if the land was annexed. Staff explained that there was a fee to be agreed upon between Delmarva Power and the town if the town were to take on a property that had previously been a Delmarva Power customer.
Tyndall also asked whether the Berlin Fire Company had been consulted regarding the proposed annexation.
“They’re already serving beyond this,” Mayor Gee Williams said.
Tyndall said he thought the intersection there was already dangerous and would only be more so if the corner lot were developed commercially.
“I think we’re going to be opening up a can of worms,” he said.
Williams said that if traffic concerns did arise with development, improvements to the intersection could be made.
A resident said she was also concerned about the fee the town would potentially have to pay Delmarva Power to take on a property it previously served. She pointed out that the town had had to pay $36,000 for taking on the former Merial Select property from Delmarva Power.
“We’re not thinking it’s going to cost $5,000,” Williams said, adding that the fee was based on a property’s historical usage.
Smith added that the proposed annexation and the town’s decision of whether or not it wanted to provide electric service to the Athena property were really two separate issues.
“The town will analyze whether it makes sense to do it or not,” he said.
The council voted 4-1, with Tyndall opposed, to approve the annexation.
When asked Wednesday why he didn’t vote for the annexation, Tyndall cited various issues with the annexation agreement.
“During the Athena Properties Inc. annexation public hearing, I expressed my concerns regarding public safety and traffic issues with this proposed development,” he said. “Unfortunately, this contract only addressed police protection and lacked consultation with the Berlin Fire Company regarding the potential impacts of this annexation on Fire and EMS services. In my experience as a paramedic, I have been on the scene of multiple fatal accidents at the Route 50 and Route 818 (North Main Street) intersection. With two entrances and exits on North Main Street near the Route 50 intersection, this proposed development could potentially amplify the current public safety concerns.”
He said he was also concerned about the possibility that the transfer of electric services could cost the town and had also wanted to talk more about a potential special tax district.
“There are many unanswered questions surrounding the financial losses of our sewer fund,” he said. “With this in mind, I recommended taking the advice of our consultants and placing this annexed property and any future annexed property into a special tax district. This would allow the mayor and council to adjust fees independently to cover any unforeseen costs. Unfortunately, my colleagues did not want to move forward with my proposal.”