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Berlin Planning Commission discussing proposed Wawa March 27

The Berlin Planning Commission is set to discuss proposed plans for a Wawa convenience store store at the intersection of North Main Street and Route 50 at a meeting on March 27.

Wawa rendering

The original rendering of a proposed Wawa convenience store on Route 818 near Route 50.
Rendering courtesy HFA

By Charlene Sharpe, Associate Editor

The Berlin Planning Commission is expected to resume discussion of a Wawa proposed for the intersection of North Main Street and Route 50 next week. 

The commission will meet at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 27, to review updated plans for the convenience store proposed for the Athena Properties site on Route 818. While officials have said the proposed building didn’t fit Berlin, some residents are eager to see it come to fruition.

“I get what you’re trying to do, make something look nice, 100% for it,” resident Andy Grunden told the commission last week. “But I hate to throw the baby out with that bathwater. Please don’t stall that to the point where it dies on the vine.”

On Feb. 14, after nearly three hours of discussion, the commission voted 4-2 to give the Wawa site plan preliminary approval. They made it clear, however, they wanted the developer to return with revised elevation drawings showing elements that tie the architecture to what is already seen in Berlin. 

“I don’t want to lose this project…,” commission member Pete Cosby said at that meeting. “Take a bow to us is all I’m saying. Make the box pretty somehow.”

At the most recent meeting of the commission, Grunden took the opportunity to appeal to the commission to support the project. He said in speaking with people in the community he’d heard a lot of support for the project.

“A lot of us get up early to go to work,” he said. “A lot of us have no option but to go to West O to get something from that Wawa. There’s nothing for us except for Royal Farms and this is not a slight at Royal Farms but no thanks. Anybody who eats breakfast on the way to work probably agrees with me.”

He said many people had been excited when they learned that the site initially approved for a 7-Eleven was instead slated to become a Wawa. Based on the commission’s comments on the project, though, he said he was afraid it wasn’t going to happen. 

“It looked like if you’re not putting road blocks up you’re doing everything you can to put your brake foot down,” he said.

Commission member Austin Purnell said he wanted to see the Wawa built but wanted it to look a little better. Commission member Ron Cascio said that he didn’t like the looks of the building that had been proposed and worried about the negative effect the development would have on traffic at the already busy intersection. 

“Build a building that welcomes us to Berlin. If Wawa’s not the one that wants to play the game we’ll find somebody else who does,” Cascio said.

Commission member Matt Stoehr pointed out that last month’s discussion was the second the board had had with Wawa representatives. He said the commission had voiced concerns with the project the first time it was presented and suggested changes.

“They came back here in a tizzy, in a rush, and made .2 of those five changes,” he said.

Grunden pointed out that the property had been home to nothing more than the remnants of two burned down houses for the past three years.

“What are we supposed to do?” Cascio said.

“Approve the Wawa,” Grunden responded. “There’s a great many people that would like to see it.”

Dave Engelhart, the town’s planning director, said last week that Wawa had submitted revised elevations. The commission will review them at the March 27 meeting. 

“What I see, those of you who are asking for something better, they did it,” Engelhart said. “That’s my opinion. I’ll send them to you as soon as I can.” 

This story appears in the March 21, 2024, print edition of the Bayside Gazette.