BERLIN – Town officials approved a zoning change this week that will allow for more commercial development in the area of routes 818 and 50.
The Berlin Town Council on Monday agreed to change the zoning on 26 acres of industrial land near the intersection of Route 50 and Route 818 to B-2 business district. The change is expected to allow plans for a neighborhood shopping center to move forward.
“We’re envisioning a mix of uses,” land planner Chris Carbaugh said. “Really it’s open to anything permissible in the B-2 but we’re targeting uses such as restaurants, pharmacies, retail, gift shops. It’s open at this point.”
Carbaugh said the zoning change, which received a favorable recommendation from the Berlin Planning Commission in January, would allow for development of a neighborhood shopping center. He stressed that it would be nothing like the Walmart shopping plaza on Route 50 but would include open space and features that would “add to the attractiveness of Berlin.” He added that a new 7-Eleven had just been approved on the other side of the intersection.
“It appears the intersection is becoming more B-2, or commercial,” he said.
When asked if the project would be a strip mall, Carbaugh said developers were not looking to propose the classic strip mall.
“We’re trying to create more of a different experience, what I’d call a neighborhood shopping center,” he said. “Nothing similar to what you would see at the Walmart shopping center here on Route 50.”
In response to a resident question about pedestrian and bicycle access to the proposed shopping center from downtown Berlin, Mayor Gee Williams said that wouldn’t be encouraged because it would involve crossing a major highway.
“It is a shopping center, to provide more convenience for the town but also to take advantage of that intersection and get people to stop at Berlin and maybe visit other businesses downtown,” Carbaugh said.
Town attorney David Gaskill pointed out that actual building plans would be reviewed by the Berlin Planning Commission and that the council was just being asked to consider the rezoning request.
Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, said that with a B-2 zoning the property could be developed commercially, similar to the downtown area, which is B-1.
“B-2 allows a little more than town center,” he said. “Everything you can do in the B-1 you can do in B-2 and then it expands on that.”
Councilman Zack Tyndall said that since mixed-use buildings were allowed in the district, if the property were ever developed with a combination of residential and commercial uses he’d want to see pedestrian access considered. He also asked about a traffic study, but Engelhart said that would be done as a part of the development process.
The council voted unanimously to approve the rezoning.
“Realistically this is a down-zoning,” Councilman Troy Purnell said.