By Gee Williams, Contributing Writer
(Nov. 24, 2022) The construction of a grain silo at the Burley Oak Brewery took another step forward last Wednesday when the Berlin Planning Commission approved a zoning code amendment to allow that use in the brewery’s B-2 Shopping District on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
By a vote of 6-1 the planning commission approval enables Brian Brushmiller, the brewery’s owner, to seek site plan approval for a proposed grain silo on the site.
Site plan approval is determined by the planning commission. The approved code amendment allows for a special exception to the town code for a grain silo to be used as a part of a brewery operation, but at no taller than 35-feet in height.
Representing the brewery at the planning commission were attorney Mark Cropper and Adam Davis, chief of Burley Oak operations.
Davis told Berlin Planning Commission members that currently the brewery receives about 19 to 20 pallets of wheat grain by truck weekly. Davis said that with a silo, grain deliveries would be reduced to about 12 times a year and only during normal business hours.
The brewery chief of operations also said the grain silo deliveries would be a safer for workers than the current arrangement.
“There would be less potential for injuries to workers, a decrease in recycling demand and fewer truck deliveries of grain,” Davis said. “He added that advantages in having a silo would be less on-site brewery visibility, noise and odor and less cost of goods for the brewery.”
Newt Chandler, a planning commission member, asked if only dry grain would be delivered, to which Davis said yes. Chandler then asked if any gas or motors would be on the site to operate the grain silo.
Davis responded that only an electric motor inside the brewery would be needed to move grain from the silo to the back-house location of the beer brewing operations.
Davis explained that there were two options for the location of the grain silo. One would be in the back corner of the brewery property and the second was in the front part of the main building.
Cosby said he would, “prefer to see something more aesthetic proposed for the silo.”
He noted the brewery should be able to put its name on the silo, but not in neon lights.
Town attorney David Gaskill explained that if the later site approval is passed, then the planning commission, “will have the say on any signage on the site.”
Gaskill said a grain silo is not a permitted use anywhere in the town and the text amendment before the planning commission was necessary before the project could be approved.
He explained that the next steps in the town approval process was for the brewery to receive a special exception for a conditional use on the property.
Gaskill also said the very large and tall Perdue Farms grain storage elevators that have been nearby in the same neighborhood for the past several decades are, “about to go.”
The grain storage property was recently sold to Carmella Solito and her husband, owners of the nearby Berlin Activities Depot.
Chandler said he is concerned with the industrial look of the proposed grain silo. The silo being proposed for the brewery is planned to be 31.5 feet tall, or 3.5 feet under the height limit.
A discussion then ensued about what would be the proper dimensions of the grain silo in that location. Some members said a shorter and wider silo should be considered while others were fine with the proposed height and width.
Cosby said he preferred that the grain silo have a wood exterior. Commission member Ron Cascio said his biggest concern was with any sign on the silo.
Chandler added, “I am concerned with the industrial appearance of the proposed grain site to which Cosby responded that, “the warehouse look has become industrial chic in recent years,” in recent years.
Brewery attorney Cropper explained that the dimensions of the silo were not at issue in the planning commission meeting, just the wording of the proposed text amendment.
Cropper said there would be two more chances for the public to express opinions on the proposed silo after the planning commission meeting. One will be when the project goes before the Berlin Zoning Appeals Board and the other will be when it goes before the mayor and council at their Dec, 12 meetings.
The planning commission then approved the proposed text amendment by a vote of 6-1, with commission member Chandler voting against it.