SNOW HILL – County officials approved a rezoning this week that will allow for commercial development of 18 acres of farmland on Route 50.
On Tuesday, the Worcester County Commissioners approved a request to rezone 18 acres at the intersection of Route 50 and Route 346 from agricultural to commercial. The rezoning is expected to allow Ernest Gerardi’s M&G Land LLC to move forward with plans for a convenience store and other commercial uses on the site.
“The population growth of Berlin shows that there is significant increase in need for commercial area for the use of Berlin,” said Joe Moore, Gerardi’s attorney.
County staff told the commissioners that the property had been zoned agricultural since zoning was established in the 1960s. Phyllis Wimbrow, deputy director of development review and permitting, said Gerardi’s request to rezone the property C-2 commercial had received a favorable recommendation from the Worcester County Planning Commission.
“The planning commission concluded there is a mistake in the zoning of the petitioned area,” she said. “The planning commission found that the petitioned area is within a designated growth area and is a gateway location for Berlin, an area with significantly increased population over the last 30 years.”
She said the commission also noted that commercial service locations were limited west of Berlin and that the property wasn’t ideal for agricultural or residential use.
“The petitioned area’s location between US 50 and Maryland Route 346 and the adjacent power substation render the site unattractive for residential use,” she said. “Its small size and irregular shape make farming with today’s large equipment difficult.”
Moore reiterated those points during his presentation and highlighted the location of the property, which is currently home to a “Welcome to Berlin” sign.
“When one comes into Worcester County on Route 50 and you’re coming eastbound on Route 50, this intersection is the first intersection with any access to any municipality in the county…,” he said. “It’s literally the Berlin gateway.”
Moore acknowledged that he’d spent more than a year working to annex the property into Berlin. That plan was abandoned, however, when the town and Gerardi weren’t able to work out an annexation agreement.
“The cost of the extension of the public utilities from the town to our location was what caused us to seek rezoning here today,” he said.
Since it won’t be connected to town sewer, the project will be served by a septic system. When asked what sort of development the site might accommodate, Moore said details would come later, during site plan review with the planning commission.
“The uses that were envisioned would be things such as a convenience store, perhaps some storage space, that type of thing,” he said.
He encouraged the commissioners to focus on Berlin’s growth as they considered the rezoning request.
“Berlin since the 2000 Census has grown 48% in its population,” he said. “As you all know, downtown Berlin — in its historic district and its commercial downtown area — is as we say full. Main Street cannot accommodate any additional uses.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.