Berlin Planning Comm. Tables Auto Zone Site Plan Approval; Store Planned For Old McDonald’s Site

Berlin Planning Comm. Tables Auto Zone Site Plan Approval; Store Planned For Old McDonald’s Site
The proposed Auto Zone store for Berlin would be modeled after an existing design in Westminster.

BERLIN – Town officials delayed approval of plans for an Auto Zone on Route 50 to give the developer time to improve the appearance of the store.

The Berlin Planning Commission tabled a decision regarding a site plan for an Auto Zone near the intersection of Route 50 and Seahawk Road. Commission members asked developers to soften the design of the store, which as proposed looks like the majority of Auto Zone locations.

“It doesn’t have to look like a Frankenstein to attract your business,” commission member Pete Cosby said. “I just think that us bending over to corporate logos and corporate designs is not good practice for Berlin. We’ve got something special going on and we want to keep it that way.”

Applicant Kevin Murphy told the commission Auto Zone was planning to tear down the old McDonalds on the site and build a new store. The design he presented represented the classic Auto Zone store.

Commission members were quick ask if there were alternatives. Chris Denny, chair of the commission, asked if a pitched roof was an option. Murphy said it was not.

“Going to a pitched roof would be a complete budget buster,” he said, adding that the town’s code did not require it.

Cosby said the proposed design wasn’t really representative of the town.

“This is a nightmare as far as what Berlin’s trying to do with its buildings,” he said.

Murphy said there were a couple things he could do to improve the appearance of the store. He said he could add parapets to the building and a decorative cornice to the roof line.  He also said he could add faux windows to the bare walls of the building. Murphy said that while Auto Zone typically used a gray color scheme, the store also had an earth tone color scheme.

Cosby suggested Murphy return with renderings illustrating the proposed design changes as well as images of the store in both possible color schemes.

“We’re not here to rubber stamp everything,” Cosby said.

Because the meeting was held via Zoom, Murphy said he could show commission members a store very similar to what Berlin’s would look like with the proposed changes. He said that store was done in Westminster, Md.

Upon seeing the Westminster store, Cosby said it was an improvement but still not ideal. He went on to bring up the lack of proposed landscaping on the site.

“These plans are done per town code,” Murphy replied. “If there was interior landscaping we had to incorporate we would have incorporated that into the


Denny suggested the commission reconvene in two weeks with renderings showing the changes proposed for the store.

“I don’t think that’s an unreasonable request,” he said. “This is something we’re going to look at for 25 years potentially.”

Commission member Austin Purnell said that he agreed some changes could make the building more appealing but thanked developers for their interest in Berlin.

“I’m happy it’s going to get redeveloped and something new will be there,” he said. “That’ll be refreshing to see. We’ve been staring at that dilapidated building for too long. “

The commission agreed to table the discussion and reconvene on Feb. 24.

“I hate to discourage developers but we’ve got to hold the line in Berlin if we’re going to keep what we’ve got,” Cosby said.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

Alternative Text

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.