By Ally Lanasa, Staff Writer
Fairfield Inn, 7-Eleven will go on newly annexed land
(June 18, 2020) A Fairfield Inn and a 7-Eleven will be coming to Athena Plaza on Route 818 across from Berlin Main Place near the intersection with Route 50, having earned site plan approval from the Berlin Planning Commission last Wednesday.
The 6.18-acre parcel where the projects will be built were annexed into town by the Berlin Town Council last May, at the request of owners Spiro and Mary Anne Buas, who wanted to build a gas station and convenience store there.
Shortly after that approval, however, Berlin resident Jeff Smith attempted to push the annexation to referendum with a petition that eventually died after failing to get enough registered Berlin voters to sign it.
Although the structures on the Athena Plaza site were removed via a Berlin Fire Company controlled burn exercise last year, some debris remains, much to the consternation of commission Chairman Chris Denny.
“As a resident of the town and fellow business owner, I think it’s a disgrace that it’s looked like that the whole time,” he said.
That, however, will change, as development begins.
The proposed Fairfield Inn will have 81 units and a pool, while the 7-Eleven will feature brick and darker colors to appear “Victorian.”
The commission asked that the 7-Eleven building be mirrored from how it was proposed on the site plan, so the service side of the building does not face Route 818.
The other two pad sites on the property do not have defined tenants yet.
Buas said his intention is to cover the pad sites with grass until tenants are confirmed.
As for landscaping, the plan includes low shrub trees off Route 50 to maintain visibility and large trees to provide shade throughout the interior of the site.
With a minimum of 130 parking spaces required, the Athena Plaza site plan features 165 spaces.
The Buas’s company, Athena Properties Inc. is, working with the State Highway Administration to expand the entrance of Route 818 to two lanes in and two lanes out.
Buas also proposed an electric golf cart service, which would require decreasing the 45-mph speed limit on the highway. This concept would reduce the risk of drunk driving and car traffic in town.
“We would need your help to get state highway to drop that speed limit to 35 miles per hour,” said Buas.
The commission approved the site plan in a 5-1 vote with the addition of a sidewalk off Route 818, the addition of trees along the southern part of the hotel to block the neighboring building and change to the landscaping around 7-Eleven to increase shade.
An arched brick “Welcome to Berlin” sign at the northeast corner of the site will be taken to Town Council for approval in the future.