Tabling Berlin Wawa Plans Best, For Now

Tabling Berlin Wawa  Plans Best, For Now

The Berlin Planning Commission did what it was supposed to do this week when it scrutinized the specifics surrounding a Wawa convenience store at the intersection of Route 50 and Main Street.

A site plan for the property was approved by the commission back in 2021 for Athena Properties. At that time, a 7-Eleven and a Marriott hotel were identified as the anchors for the future development. On Wednesday, connections to the property returned with a site plan revision to swap out the 7-Eleven for a Wawa.

As the conversation continued among the commission members, it appeared as if the votes were not there to approve the site plan revision. Before a vote was taken, a motion was made to table the request to allow the developer time to adjust the design to fit Berlin’s historic look as well as to get answers to questions about sidewalks and a potential traffic light that has been sought for years at the intersection.

There are clearly improvements that can be made to the store’s plan. Some changes should be simple, such as moving a garbage collection area off Main Street toward the western side of the property and using a monument style sign rather than the proposed 23-foot tall one proposed.

Other and more significant changes to the design of the structure could be more difficult. How far Wawa is willing to customize its design for the store is unknown, particularly after recently announcing a new “next generation” store design, such as the one that opened in September in Henrico, Va.

Wawa has shown a past willingness to localize their designs, such as in Wildwood, N.J. where a “doo wop” style was created to fill into its surroundings. Some historic adaptations were made to a Wawa in Williamsburg, Va. as well to match architectural themes in that town with smaller signage than typically seen.

Throughout the meeting, planning commission members raised valid concerns with the project at one of the gateways to Berlin. The beauty of buildings, especially those commercial in nature, is judged by the eye of the beholder. One design may pass the test of one group of folks while another subset may find it appalling. These are inevitable issues.

What cannot be dodged, however, is public safety. An updated traffic study and further conversations with the state about a light at the dangerous intersection should immediately follow. It was wise of the planning commission to stall the project this week, and we look forward to seeing design revisions and answers to traffic concerns in the near future.

(Editor’s Note: The writer of this piece is Steve Green, who serves as a councilman for the Town of Berlin.)

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.