Berlin Council To Consider Silo Text Amendment

Berlin Council To Consider Silo Text Amendment
Photo by Bethany Hooper

BERLIN – A text amendment that would in certain cases allow silos on commercial properties will be considered by Berlin’s elected officials in the coming weeks.

Last week, the Berlin Planning Commission voted 6-1 to forward a text amendment that would allow a grain silo on property zoned B-2 or B-3 as a special exception. The text amendment comes at the request of Burley Oak Brewing Company.

“Right now we receive our grain a tractor trailer load at a time,” said Adam Davis, the brewery’s chief of operations. “It would be an easier means of operation to have it delivered and augered into the silo.”

According to Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, silos are not currently permitted. When Burley Oak leadership approached him about installing one, he advised them they’d first have to get a text amendment approved that would allow silos in the business zoning district.

“The text amendment would be the only way to get a conditional use in the B-2,” he said.

Davis said that in addition to allowing the brewery to cut costs, a silo would make the grain delivery process easier. He said it would reduce the potential for forklift accidents, as staff would no longer be unloading more than 200 pallets of grain a year, and it would reduce the amount of truck traffic coming to the brewery.

“It’s arguably a greener means of brewhouse operations,” he said.

While the proposed text amendment would permit a silo not exceeding 35 feet to be used as part of a brewery operation in the business districts, Davis said the silo Burley Oak planned to install would probably just slightly over 30 feet.

“It’s not going to be much taller than the trees lining the back of our property,” he said.

Commission member Pete Cosby questioned if the commission wanted to restrict signage on silos.

“This is basically a sign post,” he said. “I’m really torn on this. In an ideal world I’d rather see something more aesthetic.”

Commission member Matt Stoehr pointed out that breweries weren’t a common use when the zoning code was written.

“It’s kind of like we’re catching up with the times,” he said.

Commission member Newt Chandler asked whether the addition of a silo would impact neighbors’ quality of life.

“To me this looks industrial,” he said. “I don’t know how you soften it.”

Davis said it could be painted any color and could be built shorter and stouter than the planned 31 feet. Commission member Austin Purnell said he’d like the proposed silo better that way.

“It’s easy to shield in my mind if it’s shorter,” Chandler said.

While the idea of decreasing the 35-foot height limit included in the text amendment was briefly discussed, Mark Cropper, the attorney representing Burley Oak, advised against it. He said that while Burley Oak was the entity seeking the code change, the proposed text amendment would be applicable town-wide.

“You may want to leave the flexibility so you can decide on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Cosby said breweries had become common in today’s world.

“The industrial look has become chic,” he said.

He said the commission just needed to decide how far it wanted to push the potential height concerns.

“I think it’s appropriate down there,” said Chris Denny, chair of the commission, adding that his only potential concern would be uplighting.

Engelhart said he didn’t want the commission to get hung up on the height of the silo Burley Oak wanted because that was a project specific issue that would be addressed by the commission during site plan approval, if the text amendment is eventually adopted.

“If there is an issue I think it’d be brought up here,” Stoehr said.

His motion to forward the amendment on to the town council with a favorable recommendation passed 6-1, with Chandler opposed.

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.